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m 2 ^ ^99V, 

First published, April 1894 
Reprinted in Bohn's Standard Library, 
1896, 1911, 1916 

?6 6» 2^3 



The Captain's Daughter i 

DouBROvsKY 153 

The Queen of Spades 257 

u'^An Amateur Peasant Girl 297 

The Shot 325 

The Snowstorm . ^. 345 

The Post Master ..- 363 

The Coffin-maker 381 

Kirdjali 393 

The Egyptian Nights 403 

Peter the Great's Negro 419 






■> t m'' * ■> 
- ' •* 1 ' • • 

MY father, Andrei Petrovitch Grineff, after having 
served in his youth under Count Miinich/ quitted 
the service, in the year 17 — , with the rank of senior major. 
He settled down upon his estate in the district of Simbirsk, 

where he married Avdotia Vassilevna U , the daughter 

of a poor nobleman of the neighbourhood. Nine children 
were the result of this marriage. All my brothers and 
sisters died in their infancy. I was enrolled as a sergeant 
in the Semenovsky Regiment, through the influence of 

Prince B , a major in the Guards, and a near relation 

of our family. I was considered as being on leave of 
absence until the completion of my course of studies. In 
those days our system of education was very different from 
that in vogue at the present time. At five years of age I 
was given into the hands of our gamekeeper, Savelitch, 
whose sober conduct had rendered him worthy of being 
selected to take charge of me. Under his instruction, at 
the age of twelve I could read and write Russian, and I was 
by no means a bad judge of the qualities of a greyhound. 
About that time my father engaged a Frenchman, a Monsieur 

' A celebrated German general who entered the service of Russia 
during the reign of Peter the Great. 



Beauprd, who had been imported from Moscow, together 
with the yearly stock of wine and Provence oil. Savelitch 
was not by any means pleased at his arrival. 

" Heaven be thanked ! " he muttered to himself; ** the 
child is washed, combed, and well-fed. What need is there 
for spending money and engaging a Mossoo, as if there 
were not enough of our own people ! " 

Beaupr^ had been a hairdresser in his own country, then 
a .soldier in Prussia, then he had come to Russia pour etre 
ouichitel^ without very well understanding the meaning of 
the .wor^. He was a good sort of fellow, but extremely 
ffighty and thoughtless. His chief weakness was a passion 
for the fair sex ; but his tenderness not unfrequently met 
with rebuffs, which would cause him to sigh and lament for 
the whole twenty-four hours. Moreover, to use his own 
expression, he was no enemy of the bottle, or, in other 
words, he loved to drink more than was good for him. But 
as, with us, wine was only served out at dinner, and then in 
small glasses only, and as, moreover, the teacher was gene- 
rally passed over on these occasions, my Beaupr^ very soon 
became accustomed to Russian drinks, and even began to 
prefer them to the wines of his own country, as being more 
beneficial for the stomach. We soon became very good 
friends, and although, by the terms of the contract, he was 
engaged to teach me French, German, and all the sciences, 
yet he much preferred learning from me to chatter in 
Russian, and then each of us occupied himself with what 
seemed best to him. Our friendship was of the most inti- 
mate character, and I wished for no other mentor. But 
fate soon separated us, owing to an event which I will now 
proceed to relate. 

The laundress, Palashka, a thick-set woman with a face 

^ Outchitel. A tutor. 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 5 

scarred by the small-pox, and the one-eyed cowkeeper, 
Akoulka, made up their minds together one day and went 
and threw themselves at my mother's feet, accusing them- 
selves of certain guilty weaknesses, complaining, with a flood 
of tears, that the Mossoo had taken advantage of their inex- 
perience, and had effected their ruin. My mother did not 
look upon such matters in the light of a joke, so she con- 
sulted my father upon the subject. • An inquiry into the 
matter was promptly resolved upon. He immediately sent 
for the rascally Frenchman. He was informed that Monsieur 
was engaged in giving me my lesson. My father came to 
my room. At that particular moment Beaupr^ was lying on 
the bed, sleeping the sleep of innocence. I was occupied 
in a very different manner. I ought to mention that a map 
had been obtained from Moscow, in order that I might be 
instructed in geography. It hung upon the wall without ever 
being made use of, and as it was a very large map, and the 
paper thick and of good quality, I had long been tempted to 
appropriate it to my own use. I resolved to make it into a 
kite, and, taking advantage of Beaupre's slumber, I set to 
work. My father entered the room just at the moment when 
I was adjusting a tail to the Cape of Good Hope. Seeing 
me so occupied with geography, my father saluted me with 
a box on the ear, then stepped towards Beaupr^, and waking 
him very unceremoniously, overwhelmed him with re- 
proaches. In his confusion, Beaupr^ wanted to rise up 
from the bed, but he was unable to do so : the unfortunate 
Frenchman was hopelessly intoxicated. There was only one 
course to take after so many acts of misdemeanour. My 
father seized hold of him by the collar, lifted him off the bed, 
hustled him out of the room, and dismissed him that very 
same day from his service — to the unspeakable delight of 
Savelitch. Thus ended my education. 

I now lived the life of a spoiled child, frightening the 

6 , poushkin's prose tales. 

pigeons, and playing at leap-frog with the boys on the 
estate. I continued to lead this kind of life until I was 
sixteen years of age. Then came the turning-point in my 

One day in autumn, my mother was boiling some honey 
preserves in the parlour, and I was looking on and licking 
my lips as the liquid simmered and frothed. My father 
was sitting near the window, reading the " Court Calendar," 
which he received every year. This book always had a 
great effect upon him ; he used to read it with especial 
interest, and the reading of it always stirred his bile in the 
most astonishing manner. My mother, who was perfectly 
well acquainted with his whims and peculiarities, always 
endeavoured to keep this unfortunate book out of the way 
as much as she possibly could, and, on this account, his 
eyes would not catch a glimpse of the volume for months 
together. But when he did happen to find it, he would sit 
with it in his hands for hours at a stretch. ... As I have 
said, my father was reading the " Court Calendar," every 
now and then shrugging his shoulders, and muttering to 
himself: "Lieutenant-General! . . . He used to be a sergeant 
in my company ! . . . Knight of both Russian Orders ! . . . 

How long is it since we " 

At last my father flung the "Calendar" down upon the 
sofa, and sank into a reverie — a proceeding that was always 
of evil augury. 

Suddenly he turned to my mother : 
*'Avdotia Vassilevna,^ how old is Petrousha?"^ 
" He is getting on for seventeen," replied my mother. 
" Petrousha was born in the same year that aunt Nastasia 

Gerasimovna ^ lost her eye, and " 

"Very well," said my father, interrupting her; "it is time 

' Avdotia, daughter of Basil. ^ Diminutive of Peter. 

^ Anastasia, daughter of Gerasim. 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 7 

that he entered the service. He has had quite enough of 
running about the servants' rooms and climbing up to the 

The thought of soon having to part with me produced 
such an effect upon my mother, that she let the spoon fall 
into the saucepan, and the tears streamed down her cheeks. 
As for myself, it would be difficult to describe the delight 
that I felt. The thought of the service was associated in 
my mind with thoughts of freedom and the pleasures of a 
life in St. Petersburg. I imagined myself an officer in the 
Guards, that being, in my opinion, the summit of human 

My father loved neither to change his intentions, nor to 
delay putting them into execution. The day for my de- 
parture was fixed. On the evening before, my father in- 
formed me that he intended to write to my future chief, and 
asked for pens and paper. 

"Do not forget, Andrei Petrovitch," ^ said my mother, 

" to send my salutations to Prince B , and say that I 

hope he will take our Petrousha under his protection.'' 

"What nonsense!" exclaimed my father, frowning. 
"Why should I write to Prince B ?" 

"Why, you said just now that you wanted to write to 
Petrousha's chief." 

" Well, and what then?" 

"Why, Prince B is Petrousha's chief. You know 

Petrousha is enrolled in the Semenovsky Regiment." 

" Enrolled ! What care I whether he is enrolled or not ? 
Petrousha is not going to St. Petersburg. What would he 
learn by serving in St. Petersburg ? To squander money 
and indulge in habits of dissipation. No, let him enter a 

^ The Russians usually address each other by their Christian name 
and that of their father. Thus Andrei Petrovitch means simply Andrew, 
son of Peter. 


regiment of the Line ; let him learn to carry knapsack and 
belt, to smell powder, to become a soldier, and not an idler 
in the Guards. Where is his passport ? Bring it here." 

My mother went to get my passport, which she preserved 
in a small box along with the shirt in which I was christened, 
and delivered it to my father with a trembHng hand. My 
father read it through very attentively, placed it in front of 
him upon the table, and commenced to write his letter. 

I was tortured with curiosity. Where was I to be sent to, 
if I was not going to St. Petersburg? I kept my eyes 
steadfastly fixed upon the pen, which moved slowly over 
the paper. At last he finished the letter, enclosed it in a 
cover along with my passport, took off" his spectacles, and, 
calling me to him, said : 

" Here is a letter for Andrei Karlovitch R , my old 

comrade and friend. You are going to Orenburg to serve 
under his command." 

All my brilliant hopes were thus brought to the ground ! 
Instead of a life of gaiety in St. Petersburg, there awaited 
me a tedious existence in a dreary and distant country. 
The service, which I had thought of with such rapture but 
a moment before, now presented itself to my eyes in the 
light of a great misfortune. But there was no help for it, 
and arguing the matter would have been of no avail. 

Early the next morning a travelling carriage drew up 
before the door ; my portmanteau was placed in it, as well 
as a small chest containing a tea-service and a tied-up cloth 
full of rolls and pies — the last tokens of home indulgence. 
My parents gave me their blessing. My father said to 
me : 

" Good-bye, Peter ! Serve faithfully whom you have 
sworn to serve; obey your superior officers; do not run 
after their favours ; be not too eager in volunteering for 
service, but never shirk a duty when you are selected for 


it ; and remember the proverb : * Take care of your coat 
while it is new, and of your honour while it is young.' " 

My mother, with tears in her eyes, enjoined me to take 
care of my health, at the same time impressing upon 
Savelitch to look well after the child. A cloak made of 
hare-skin was then put over my shoulders, and over that 
another made of fox-skin. I seated myself in the carriage 
with Savelitch, and started off on my journey, weeping 

That same night I arrived at Simbirsk, where I was 
compelled to remain for the space of twenty-four hours, to 
enable Savelitch to purchase several necessary articles which 
he had been commissioned to procure. I stopped at an inn. 
In the morning Savelitch sallied out to the shops. Tired 
of looking out of the window into a dirty alley, I began to 
wander about the rooms of the inn. As I entered the 
billiard-room, my eyes caught sight of a tall gentleman of 
about thirty-five years of age, with long, black moustaches ; 
he was dressed in a morning-gown, and had a cue in his 
hand and a pipe between liis teeth. He was playing with 
the marker, who drank a glass of brandy when he scored, but 
crept on all-fours beneath the table when he failed. I 
stopped to look at the game. The longer it continued, 
the more frequent became the crawling on all-fours, until 
at last the marker crept beneath the table and remained 

The gentleman uttered a few strong expressions over him, 
as a sort of funeral oration, and then invited me to play a 
game with him. I declined, on the score that I did not 
know how to play. This evidently seemed very strange to 
him, and he looked at me with an air of commiseration. 
However, we soon fell into conversation. I learned that 
his name was Ivan Ivanovitch Zourin ; that he was a captain 
in a Hussar regiment ; that he was then stopping in Simbirsk, 

10 poushkin's prose tales. 

waiting to receive some recruits, and that he was staying at 
the same inn as myself. 

Zourin invited me to dine with him, in military fashion, 
upon whatever Heaven should be pleased to set before us. 
I accepted his invitation with pleasure. We sat down to 
table. Zourin drank a great deal, and pressed me to do the 
same, saying that it was necessary for me to get accustomed 
to the ways of the service. He related to me several 
military anecdotes, which convulsed me with laughter, and 
when we rose from the table we had become intimate friends 
Then he offered to teach me how to play at billiards. 

" It is an indispensable game for soldiers Hke us," said 
he. ''When on the march, for instance, you arrive at some 
insignificant village, what can you do to occupy the time? 
You cannot always be thrashing the Jews. You involuntarily 
make your way to the inn to play at billiards, and to do 
that, you must know how to play." 

I was completely convinced, and I commenced to learn 
the game with great assiduity. Zourin encouraged me with 
loud-voiced praise, being astonfehed at my rapid progress ; 
and after a few lessons he proposed that we should play for 
money, for the smallest sums possible, not for the sake of 
gain, but merely for the sake of not playing for nothing, which, 
according to his opinion, was an exceedingly bad habit. 

I agreed to his proposal, and Zourin ordered a supply of 
punch, which he persuaded me to partake of, saying that it 
was necessary to become accustomed to it in the service ; 
for what would the service be without punch ! I followed 
his advice. In the meantime we continued our game. 
The more frequently I had recourse to the punch, the more 
emboldened I became. The balls kept continually flying in 
the wrong direction ; I grew angry, abused the marker — who 
counted the points, Heaven only knows how, — increased the 
stakes from time to time — in a word, I behaved like a boy just 


out of leading-strings. In the meanwhile the time had passed 
away without my having observed it. Zourin glanced at the 
clock, laid down his cue, and informed me that I had lost 
a hundred roubles.^ I was considerably confounded by 
this piece of information. My money was in the hands of 
Savelitch. I began to make some excuses. Zourin inter- 
rupted me : 

" Pray, do not be uneasy. I can wait ; and now let us go 
to Arinoushka."^ 

• What more shall I add ? I finished the day as foolishly 
as I had commenced it. We took supper with Arinoushka. 
Zourin kept continually filling my glass, observing as he did 
so, that it was necessary to become accustomed to it in the 
service. When I rose from the table, I was scarcely able to 
stand on my legs ; at midnight, Zourin conducted me back 
to the inn. 

Savelitch came to the doorstep to meet us. He uttered a 
groan on perceiving the indubitable signs of my zeal for the 

"What has happened to you?" he said, in a voice of 
lamentation. " Where have you been drinking so ? Oh, 
Lord ! never did such a misfortune happen before ! " 

" Hold your tongue, you old greybeard ! " I replied, in an 
unsteady voice ; " you are certainly drunk. Go to sleep . . . 
and put me to bed." 

The next morning I awoke with a violent headache, and 
with a confused recollection of the events of the day before. 
My reflections were interrupted by Savelitch, who brought 
me a cup of tea. 

" You are beginning your games early, Peter Andreitch," ^ 
he said, shaking his head. "And whom do you take after? 

^ The rouble, at that time, was worth about three shillings and four- 

^ Diminutive of Arina. * Peter, son of Andrew. 


As far as I know, neither your father nor grandfather were 
ever drunkards ; as for your mother, I will say nothing ; she 
has never drunk anything except kvas ^ since the day she was 
born. And who is to blame for all this? Why, that cursed 
Mossoo, who was ever running to Antipevna with : * Madame^ 
je vous prie^ vodka.' ^ You see what a pretty pass your Je 
vous prie has brought you to ! There's no denying that the 
son of a dog taught you some nice things ! It was worth 
while to hire such a heathen for your tutor, as if our master 
had not enough of his own people ! " 

I felt ashamed of myself. I turned my back to him, and 
said : 

"Go away, Savelitch ; I do not want any tea." 

But it was a difficult matter to quiet Savelitch when he 
had set his mind upon preaching a sermon. 

"You see now, Peter Andreitch, what it is to get drunk. 
You have a headache, and you do not want to eat or drink 
anything. A man who gets drunk is good for nothing. 
Have some cucumber pickle with honey ; or perhaps half a 
glass of fruit wine would be better still. What do you say ? " 

At that moment a boy entered the room and handed me 
a note from Zourin. I opened it and read the following 
lines : 

"Dear Peter Andreivitch, 

"Be so good as to send me, by my boy, the 
hundred roubles which you lost to me yesterday. I am in 
great need of money. 

" Yours faithfully, 

" Ivan Zourin." 

There was no help for it. I assumed an air of in- 

^ A sour but refreshing drink made from rye-meal and malt. 
* Brandy. 


difference, and turning to Savelitch, who was my treasurer 
and caretaker in one, I ordered him to give the boy a 
hundred roubles. 

" What ? why ? " asked the astonished SaveUtch. 

" I owe them to him," I repHed, with the greatest possible 

"Owe!" ejaculated Savelitch, becoming more and more 
astonished. " When did you get into his debt ? It looks a 
very suspicious piece of business. You may do as you like, 
my lord, but I shall not give the money." 

I thought that, if in this decisive moment I did not gain 
the upper hand of the obstinate old man, it would be difficult 
for me to liberate myself from his tutelage later on ; so, look- 
ing haughtily at him, I said : 

" I am your master, and you are my servant. The money 
is m.ine. I played and lost it because I chose to do so ; 
and I advise you not to oppose my wishes, but to do what 
you are ordered." 

Savelitch was so astounded at my words, that he clasped 
his hands and stood as if petrified. 

*' What are you standing there like that for ? " I exclaimed 

Savelitch began to weep. 

" Father, Peter Andreitch," he stammered in a quivering 
voice , '* do not break my heart with grief You are the 
light of my life, so Hsten to me— to an old man: write to 
this robber, and tell him that you were only joking, that we 
have not got so much money. A hundred roubles ! Merci- 
ful Heaven ! Tell him that your parents have strictly for- 
bidden you to play for anything except nuts " 

" That will do ; let me have no more of your chatter ! 
Give me the money, or I will put you out by the neck ! " 

Savelitch looked at me with deep sadness, and went for 
the money. I pitied the poor old man ; but I wanted to 


assert my independence and to show that I was no longer a 

The money was paid to Zourin. SaveHtch hastened to 
get me away from the accursed inn. He made his ap- 
pearance with the information that the horses were ready. 
With an uneasy conscience, and a silent feeling of remorse, I 
left Simbirsk without taking leave of my teacher of billiards, 
and without thinking that I should ever see him again. 




MY reflections during the journey were not very agree- 
able. My loss, according to the value of money at 
that time, was of no little importance. I could not but 
confess, within my own mind, that my behaviour at the 
Simbirsk inn was very stupid, and I felt guilty in the pre- 
sence of Savelitch. All this tormented me. The old man 
sat in gloomy silence upon the seat of the vehicle, with his 
face averted from me, and every now and then giving vent 
to a sigh. I wanted at all hazards to become reconciled to 
him, but I did not know how to begin. At last I said to 
him : 

" Come, come, Savelitch, that will do, let us be friends. 
I was to blame ; I see myself that I was in the wrong. I 
acted very foolishly yesterday, and I offended you without 
cause. I promise that I will act more wisely for the future, 
and Hsten to your advice. Come, don't be angry, but let 
us be friends again." 

"Ah! father, Peter Andreitch," he replied, with a deep 
sigh, " I am angry with myself; I alone am to blame. How 
could I leave you alone in the inn ! But what else could be 
expected ? We are led astray by sin. The thought came 
into my mind to go and see the clerk's wife, who is my 
gossip.^ But so it was : I went to my gossip, and ill-luck 

* Savelitch uses the word here in its old meaning of fellow-sponsor. 


came of it. Was there ever such a misfortune ! How shall 
I ever be able to look in the face of my master and 
mistress ? What will they say when they know that their 
child is a drunkard and a gambler ? " 

In order to console poor SaveHtch, I gave him my word 
that I would never again spend a single copeck^ with- 
out his consent. He calmed down by degrees, although 
every now and again he still continued muttering, with a 
shake of the head, "A hundred roubles ! It's no laughing 
matter ! " 

I was nearing the place of my destination. On every 
side of me extended a dreary-looking plain, intersected by 
hills and ravines. Everything was covered with snow. The 
sun was setting. The kibitka ^ was proceeding along the 
narrow road, or, to speak more precisely, along the track 
made by the peasants' sledges Suddenly the driver began 
gazing intently about him, and at last, taking off his cap, he 
turned to me and said : 

*' My lord, will you not give orders to turn back ? " 


" The weather does not look very promising : the wind 
is beginning to rise ; see how it whirls the freshly fallen 
snow along." 

*' What does that matter ? " 

" And do you see that yonder?" 

And the driver pointed with his whip towards the east. 

" I see nothing, except the white steppe and the clear 

" There — away in the distance : that cloud." 

I perceived, indeed, on the edge of the horizon, a white 
cloud, which I had taken at first for a distant hill. The 
driver explained to me that this small cloud presaged a 

* A tenth of a penny. • A kind of rough travelling cart. 


I had heard of the snowstorms of that part of the 
country, and I knew that whole trains of waggons were 
frequently buried in the drifts. Savelitch was of the same 
opinion as the driver, and advised that we should return. 
But the wind did not seem to me to be very strong : I 
hoped to be able to reach the next station in good time, 
and I gave orders to drive on faster. 

The driver urged on the horses at a gallop, but he still 
continued to gaze towards the east. The horses entered 
into their work with a will. In the meantime the wind had 
gradually increased in violence. The little cloud had 
changed into a large, white, nebulous mass, which rose 
heavily, and gradually began to extend over the whole sky. 
A fine snow began to fall, and then all at once this gave 
place to large heavy flakes. The wind roared ; the snow- 
storm had burst upon us. In one moment the dark sky 
became confounded with the sea of snow ; everything had 

"Well, my lord," cried the driver, **this is a misfortune; 
it is a regular snowstorm ! " 

I looked out of the kibitka ; all was storm and darkness. 
The wind blew with such terrific violence that it seemed 
as if it were endowed with life. Savelitch and I were 
covered with snow : the horses ploughed their way onward 
at a walking pace, and soon came to a standstill. 

" Why don't you go on ? " I called out impatiently to the 

" But where am I to drive to ? " he replied, jumping 
down from his seat ; *' I haven^t the slightest idea as to 
where we are ; there is no road, and it is dark all round." 

I began to scold him. Savelitch took his part. 

'* You ought to have taken his advice," he said angrily. 
" You should have returned to the posting-house ; you 
could have had some tea and could have slept there till the 


morning ; the storm would have blown over by that time, 
and then you could have proceeded on your journey. And 
why such haste ? It would be all very well if we were going 
to a wedding ! " 

Savelitch was right. But what was to be done? The 
snow still continued to fall. A drift began to form around 
the kibitka. The horses stood with dejected heads, and 
every now and then a shudder shook their frames. The 
driver kept walking round them, and, being unable to do 
anything else, busied himself with adjusting the harness. 
Savehtch grumbled. I looked round on every side, hoping 
to discover some sign of a house or a road, but I could 
distinguish nothing except the confused whirling snow- 
drifts. ... Suddenly I caught sight of something black. 

*'Hillo! driver," I cried; ''look! what is that black 
object yonder?" 

The driver looked carefully in the direction indicated. 

" God knows, my lord," said he, seating himself in his 
place again ; " it is neither a sledge nor a tree, and it seems 
to move. It must be either a man or a wolf." 

I ordered him to drive towards the unknown object, 
which was gradually drawing nearer to us. In about two 
minutes we came up to it and discovered it to be a man. 

^* Hi ! my good man," cried the driver to him ; " say, do 
you know where the road is ? " 

"The road is here; I am standing on a firm track," 
replied the wayfarer. " But what of it ? " 

" Listen, peasant," said I to him ; " do you know this 
country ? Can you lead me to a place where I can obtain a 
night's lodging?" 

" I know the country very well," replied the peasant. 
" Heaven be thanked, I have crossed it and re-crossed it 
in every direction. But you see what sort of weather it is : 
it would be very easy to miss the road. You had much 


better stay here and wait ; perhaps the storm will blow over, 
and the sky- become clear, then we shall be able to find the 
road by the help of the stars." 

His cool indifference encouraged me. I had already 
resolved to abandon myself to the will of God and to pass 
the night upon the steppe, when suddenly the peasant 
mounted to the seat of our vehicle and said to the driver : 

" Thank Heaven, there is a house not far off; turn to the 
right and go straight on." 

" Why should I go to the right ? " asked the driver in a 
dissatisfied tone. "Where do you see a road? I am not 
the owner of these horses that I should use the whip 
without mercy." 

The driver seemed to me to be in the right. 

" In truth," said I, " why do you think that there is a 
house not far off? " 

" Because the wind blows from that direction," replied 
the wayfarer, " and I can smell smoke ; that is a sign that 
there is a village close at hand." 

His sagacity and nicety of smell astonished me. I 
ordered the driver to go on. The horses moved heavily 
through the deep snow. The kibitka advanced very slowly, 
at one moment mounting to the summit of a ridge, at 
another sinking into a deep hollow, now rolling to one side, 
and now to the other. It was very much like being in a 
ship on a stormy sea. SaveHtch sighed and groaned, and 
continually jostled against me. I let down the cover of the 
kibitka^ wrapped myself up in my cloak, and fell into a 
slumber, lulled by the music of the storm, and rocked by 
the motion of the vehicle. 

I had a dream which I shall never forget, and in which 
I still see something prophetic when I compare it with 
the strange events of my life. The reader will excuse me 
for mentioning the matter, for probably he knows from 


20 poushkin's prose tales. 

experience that man is naturally given to superstition in 
spite of the great contempt entertained for it. 

I was in that condition of mind when reality and imagina- 
tion become confused in the vague sensations attending the 
first stage of drowsiness. It seemed to me that the storm 
still continued, and that we were still wandering about the 
wilderness of snow. ... All at once I caught sight of a gate, 
and we entered the courtyard of our mansion. My first 
thought was a fear that my father would be angry with me 
for my involuntary return to the paternal roof, and would 
regard it as an act of intentional disobedience. With a 
feeling of uneasiness I sprang out of the kibitkay and saw 
my mother coming down the steps to meet me, with a look 
of deep affliction upon her face. 

" Hush ! " she said to me ; " your father is on the point 
of death, and wishes to take leave of you." 

Struck with awe, I followed her into the bedroom. I 
looked about me ; the room was dimly lighted, and round 
the bed stood several persons with sorrow-stricken counte- 
nances. I approached very gently ; my mother raised the 
curtain and said : 

" Andrei Petrovitch, Petrousha has arrived ; he has re- 
turned because he heard of your illness; give him your 

I knelt down and fixed my eyes upon the face of the sick 
man. But what did I see ? . . . Instead of my father, I saw 
lying in the bed a black-bearded peasant, who looked at 
me with an expression of gaiety upon his countenance. 
Greatly perplexed, I turned round to my mother and said 
to her : 

" What does all this mean ? This is not my father. Why 
should I ask this peasant for his blessing ? " 

*' It is all the same, Petrousha," replied my mother ; " he 
is your stepfather ; kiss his hand and let him bless you." 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 21 

I would not consent to it. Then the peasant sprang out 
of bed, grasped the axe which hung at his back,i j^j^^j com- 
menced flourishing it about on every side. I wanted to 
run away, but I could not; the room began to get filled 
with dead bodies ; I kfept stumbling against them, and my 
feet continually slipped in pools of blood. The dreadful 
peasant called out to me in a gentle voice, saying : 

*' Do not be afraid ; come and receive my blessing." 

Terror and doubt took possession of me. ... At that 
moment I awoke; the horses had come to a standstill. 
Savelitch took hold of my hand, saying : 

*' Get out, my lord, we have arrived." 

" Where are we ? " I asked, rubbing my eyes. 

"At a place of refuge. God came to our help and con- 
ducted us straight to the fence of the house. Get out as 
quickly as you can, my lord, and warm yourself." 

I stepped out of the kibitka. The storm still raged, 
although with less violence than at first. It was as dark as 
if we were totally blind. The host met us at the door, 
holding a lantern under the skirt of his coat, and conducted 
me into a room, small, but tolerably clean. It was lit up by 
a pine torch. On the wall hung a long rifle, and a tall 
Cossack cap. 

The host, a Yaikian Cossack by birth, was a peasant of 
about sixty years of age, still hale and strong. Savelitch 
brought in the tea-chest, and asked for a fire in order to 
prepare some tea, which I seemed to need at that moment 
more than at any other time in my life. The host hastened 
to attend to the matter. 

''Where is the guide?" I said to Savelitch. 

*' Here, your Excellency," replied a voice from above. 

I glanced up at the loft, and saw a black beard and two 
sparkling eyes. 

^ The Russian peasant usually carries his axe behind him. 


** Well, friend, are you cold ? " 

" How could I be otherwise than cold in only a thin 
tunic ! I had a fur coat, but why should I hide my fault ? 
— I pawned it yesterday with a brandy-seller ; the cold did 
not seem to be so severe." 

At that moment the host entered with a smoking tea-urn ; 
I offered our guide a cup of tea ; the peasant came down 
from the loft. His exterior seemed to me somewhat re- 
markable. He was about forty years of age, of middle 
height, thin and broad-shouldered. In his black beard 
streaks of grey were beginning to make their appearance ; 
his large, lively black eyes were incessantly on the roll. 
His face had something rather agreeable about it, although 
an expression of vindictiveness could also be detected upon 
it. His hair was cut close round his head. He was dressed 
in a ragged tunic and Tartar trousers. I gave him a cup of 
tea ; he tasted it, and made a wry face. 

" Your Excellency," said he, " be so good as to order a 
glass of wine for me ; tea is not the drink for us Cossacks." 

I willingly complied with his request. The landlord 
brought a square bottle and a glass from a cupboard, went 
up to him, and, looking into his face, said : 

*' Oh ! you are again in our neighbourhood ! Where have 
you come from? " 

My guide winked significantly, and made reply : 

" Flying in the garden, pecking hempseed ; the old woman 
threw a stone, but it missed its aim. And how is it with 

"How is it with us?" replied the landlord, continuing 
the allegorical conversation, " they were beginning to ring 
the vespers, but the pope's wife would not allow it : the 
pope is on a visit, and the devils are in the glebe." 

''Hold your tongue, uncle," replied my rover; "when 
there is rain, there will be mushrooms ; and when there are 


mushrooms, there will be a pannier ; but now " (and here 
he winked again) *'put your axe behind your back; the 
ranger is going about. Your Excellency, I drink to your 
health ! " 

With these words he took hold of the glass, made the 
sign of the cross, and drank off the liquor in one draught ; 
then, bowing to me, he returned to the loft. 

At that time I could not understand anything of this 
thieves' slang, but afterwards I understood that it referred 
to the Yaikian army, which had only just then been reduced 
to submission after the revolt of 1772. Savelitch listened 
with a look of great dissatisfaction. He glanced very sus- 
piciously, first at the landlord, then at the guide. The inn, 
or uniet^ as it was called in those parts, was situated in the 
middle of the steppe, far from every habitation or village, 
and had very much the appearance of a rendezvous for 
thieves. But there was no help for it. We could not 
think of continuing our journey. The uneasiness of Savelitch 
afforded me very great amusement. In the meantime I 
made all necessary arrangements for passing the night com- 
fortably, and then stretched myself upon a bench. Savelitch 
resolved to avail himself of the stove ^ ; our host lay down 
upon the floor. Soon all in the house were snoring, and I 
fell into a sleep as sound as that of the grave. 

When I awoke on the following morning, at a somewhat 
late hour, I perceived that the storm was over. The sun 
was shining. The snow lay like a dazzling shroud over the 
boundless steppe. The horses were harnessed. I paid the 
reckoning to the host, the sum asked of us being so very 
moderate that even Savelitch did not dispute the matter 
and commence to haggle about the payment as was his 
usual custom; moreover, his suspicions of the previous 

^ The usual sleeping place of the Russian peasant. 

24 poushkin's prose tales. 

evening had completely vanished from his mind. I called 
for our guide, thanked him for the assistance he had ren- 
dered us, and ordered Savelitch to give him half a rouble 
for brandy. 

Savelitch frowned. 

"Half a rouble for brandy?" said he; "why so? 
Because you were pleased to bring him with you to this 
inn ? With your leave, my lord, but we have not too many 
half roubles to spare. If we give money for brandy to 
everybody we have to deal with, we shall very soon have to 
starve ourselves." 

I could not argue with Savelitch. According to my own 
promise, the disposal of my money was to be left entirely to 
his discretion. But I felt rather vexed that I was not able 
to show my gratitude to a man who, if he had not rescued 
me from certain destruction, had at least delivered me from 
a very disagreeable position. 

" Well," said I, coldly, " if you will not give him half a 
rouble, give him something out of my wardrobe ; he is too 
thinly clad. Give him my hare-skin pelisse." 

" In the name of Heaven, father, Peter Andreitch ! " 
said Savehtch, "why give him your pelisse? The dog will 
sell it for drink at the first tavern that he comes to." 

" It is no business of yours, old man," said my stroller, 
"whether I sell it for drink or not. His Excellency is 
pleased to give me a cloak from off his own shoulders ; it is 
his lordly will, and it is your duty, as servant, to obey, and 
not to dispute." 

" Have you no fear of God, you robber ! " said Savelitch, 
in an angry tone. " You see that the child has not yet 
reached the age of discretion, and yet you are only too glad 
to take advantage of his good-nature, and rob him. What 
do you want with my master's pelisse? You will not be 
able to stretch it across your accursed shoulders." 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 2$ 

" I beg of you not to show off your wit," I said to my 
guardian. " Bring the pelisse hither immediately ! " 

'* Gracious Lord 1 " groaned Savelitch, " the pelisse is 
almost brand-new ! If it were to anybody deserving of it, it 
would be different, but to give it to a ragged drunkard ! " 

However, the pelisse was brought. The peasant instantly 
commenced to try it on. And, indeed, the garment, which 
I had grown out of, and which was rather tight for me, was 
a great deal too small for him. But he contrived to get it 
on somehow, though not without bursting the seams in the 
effort. Savelitch very nearly gave vent to a groan when he 
heard the stitches giving way. The stroller was exceedingly 
pleased with my present. He conducted me to the kihitka^ 
and said, with a low bow : 

" Many thanks, your Excellency ! May God reward you 
for your virtue. I shall never forget your kindness." 

He went his way, and I set out again on my journey, with- 
out paying any attention to Savelitch, and I soon forgot all 
about the storm of the previous day, the guide, and my 

On arriving at Orenburg, I immediately presented myself 
to the general. He was a tall man, but somewhat bent with 
age. His long hair was perfectly white. His old faded 
uniform recalled to mind the warrior of the time of the 
Empress Anne, and he spoke with a strong German accent. 

I gave him the letter from my father. On hearing the 
name, he glanced at me quickly. 

" Mein Gott ! " said he, " it does not seem so very long 
ago since Andrei Petrovitch was your age, and now what a 
fine young fellow he has got for a son ! Ac/i ! time, time ! " 

He opened the letter and began to read it half aloud, 
making his own observations upon it in the course of his 

*' ' Esteemed Sir, Ivan Karlovitch, I hope that your Excel- 

26 poushkin's prose tales. 

lency ' — Why all this ceremony ? Pshaw ! Isn't he ashamed 
of himself? To be sure, discipline before everything, but is 
that the way to write to an old comrade ? — ' Your Excellency 
has not forgotten ' — Hm ! — ' and — when — with the late 
Field Marshal Miin — in the campaign — also Caroline' — Ha, 
brother ! he still remembers our old pranks, then ? — ' Now 
to business. — I send you my young hopeful ' — Hm 1 — ' Hold 
him with hedgehog mittens.' — What are hedgehog mittens ? 
That must be a Russian proverb. — What does *hold him 
with hedgehog mittens ' mean ? " he repeated, turning to 

" It means," I replied, looking as innocent as I possibly 
could, " to treat a person kindly, not to be too severe, and 
to allow as much liberty as possible." 

" Hm ! I understand — ' And do not give him too much 
liberty.' — No, it is evident that 'hedgehog mittens' does 
not mean that. — ' Enclosed you will find his passport' — 
Where is it then ? Ah ! here it is. — ' Enrol him in the 
Semenovsky Regiment' — Very well, very well, everything 
shall be attended to. — ' Allow me without ceremony to 
embrace you as an old comrade and friend.' — Ah ! at 
last he has got to it. — ' Etcetera, etcetera.* — Well, my little 
father," said he, finishing the reading of the letter, and 
putting my passport on one side, " everything shall be 

arranged ; you shall be an officer in the Regiment, 

and so that you may lose no time, start to-morrow for the 
fortress of Bailogorsk, where you will be under the command 
of Captain Mironof^, a good and honest man. There you 
will learn real service, and be taught what real discipline is. 
Orenburg is not the place for you, there is nothing for you to 
do there; amusements are injurious to a young man. 
Favour me with your company at dinner to-day." 

" This is getting worse and worse," I thought to myself. 
" Of what use will it be to me to have been a sergeant in the 


Guards almost from my mother's womb ! Whither has it led 

me ? To the Regiment, and to a dreary fortress on the 

borders of the Kirghis-Kaisaks steppes ! " 

I dined with Andrei Karlovitch, in company with his old 
adjutant. A strict German economy ruled his table, and I 
believe that the fear of being obliged to entertain an 
additional guest now and again was partly the cause of my 
being so promptly banished to the garrison. 

The next day I took leave of the general, and set out foi 
the place of my destination. 




THE fortress of Bailogorsk was situated about forty 
versts ^ from Orenburg. The road to it led along the 
steep bank of the Vaik.^ The river was not yet frozen, and 
its leaden-coloured waves had a dark and melancholy 
aspect as they rose and fell between the dreary banks 
covered with the white snow. Beyond it stretched the 
Kirghis steppes. I sank into reflections, most of them of 
a gloomy nature. Garrison life had little attraction for me, 
I endeavoured to picture to myself Captain Mironoff, my 
future chief; and I imagined^ him to be a severe, ill- 
tempered old man, knowing nothing except what was con- 
nected with his duty, and ready to arrest me and put me on 
bread and water for the merest trifle. 

In the meantime it began to grow dark, and we quickened 
our pace. 

" Is it far to the fortress ? " I inquired of our driver. 

*' Not far," he replied, " you can see it yonder." 

I looked around on every side, expecting to see formid- 
able bastions, towers, and ramparts, but I could see nothing 
except a small village surrounded by a wooden palisade. 
On one side stood three or four hayricks, half covered with 

' A verst is two-thirds of an English mile, 
• A tributary of the Oaral, 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 29 

snow ; on the other a crooked looking windmill, with its 
bark sails hanging idly down. 

"But where is the fortress?" I asked in astonishment. 

" There it is," replied the driver, pointing to the village, 
and, as he spoke, we entered into it. 

At the gate I saw an old cast-iron gun ; the streets were 
narrow and crooked ; the cottages small, and for the most 
part covered with thatch. I expressed a wish to be taken 
to the Commandant, and, in about a minute, the kibitka 
stopped in front of a small wooden house, built on an 
eminence, and situated near the church, which was likewise 
of wood. 

Nobody came out to meet me. I made my way to the 
entrance and then proceeded to the ante-room. An old 
pensioner, seated at a table, was engaged in sewing a blue 
patch on the elbow of a green uniform coat. I ordered 
him to announce me. 

"Go inside, little father," replied the pensioner; "our 
people are at home." 

I entered into a very clean room, furnished in the old- 
fashioned style. In one corner stood a cupboard contain- 
ing earthenware utensils; on the wall hung an officer's 
diploma, framed and glazed, and around it were arranged a 
few rude wood engravings, representing the " Capture of 
Kustrin and Otchakoff," ^ the " Choice of the Bride," and the 
" Burial of the Cat." At the window sat .an old woman in a 
jerkin, and wearing a handkerchief round her head. She 
was unwinding thread which a one-eyed old man, dressed 
in an officer's uniform, held in his outstretched hands. 

" What is your pleasure, little father ? " she asked, con- 
tinuing her occupation. 

I replied that I had come to enter the service, and, in 

^ Taken from the Turks in 1737 by the Russian troops under Count 

30 p6ushkin*s prose tales. 

accordance with the regulations, to notify my arrival to the 
Captain in command. And with these words I turned 
towards the one-eyed old man, whom I supposed to be the 
Commandant; but the old lady interrupted me in the speech 
which I had so carefully prepared beforehand. 

" Ivan Kouzmitch ^ is not at home," said she ; " he has 
gone to visit Father Gerasim. But it is all the same, I am 
his wife." 

She summoned a maid-servant and told her to call an 
orderly ofificer. The little old man looked at me out of his 
one eye with much curiosity. 

*'May I ask," said he, "in what regiment you have 
deigned to serve ? " 

I satisfied his curiosity. 

"And may I ask," he continued, "why you have ex- 
changed the Guards for this garrison ? " 

I replied that such was the wish of the authorities. 

" Probably for conduct unbecoming an officer of the 
Guards ? " continued the indefatigable interrogator. 

" A truce to your foolish chatter," said the Captain's wife 
to him ; " you see that the young man is tired after his 
journey. He has something else to do than to listen to 
your nonsense." Then turning to me she added : " You 
are not the first, and you will not be the last. It is a hard 
life here, but you will soon get to like it. It is five years 
ago since Shvabrin Alexei Ivanitch was sent here to us for 
a murder. Heaven knows what it was that caused him to 
go wrong. You see, he went out of the town with a lieu- 
tenant; they had taken their swords with them, and they 
began to thrust at one another, and Alexei Ivanitch stabbed 
the lieutenant, and all before two witnesses ! But what 
would you ? Man is not master of sin." 

* Ivan (John), son of Kouzmft. • 


At this moment the orderly officer, a young and well- 
built Cossack, entered the room. 

'* Maximitch," said the Captain's wife to him, " conduct 
this officer to his quarters, and see that everything is 
attended to." 

'* I obey, Vassilissa Egorovna," replied the orderly. " Is 
not his Excellency to lodge with Ivan Polejaeff ? " 

" What a booby you are, Maximitch ! " said the Captain's 
wife. "Polejaeff's house is crowded already; besides, he is 
my gossip, and remembers that we are his superiors. Take 
the officer — what is your name, little father ? " ^ 

" Peter Andreitch." 

" Take Peter Andreitch to Simon Kouzoff. The rascal 
allowed his horse to get in my kitchen-garden. . . . And is 
everything right, Maximitch ? " 

" Everything, thank God ! " replied the Cossack ; " only 
Corporal Prokhoroff has been having a squabble at the 
bath with Ustinia Pegoulina, on account of a can of hot 

" Ivan Ignatitch," said the Captain's wife to the one-eyed 
old man, " decide between Prokhoroff and Ustinia as to 
who is right and who is wrong, and then punish both. 
Now, Maximitch, go, and God be with you. Peter 
Andreitch, Maximitch will conduct you to your quarters." 

I bowed and took my departure. The orderly conducted 
me to a hut, situated on the steep bank of the river, at the 
extreme end of the fortress. One half of the hut was 
occupied by the family of Simon Kouzoff; the other was 
given up to me. It consisted of one room, of tolerable 
cleanliness, and was divided into two by a partition. 

Savelitch began to set the room in order, and I looked 
out of the narrow window. Before me stretched a gloomy 

^ Little father {batyushka). A familiar idiom peculiar to the Russian 



Steppe. On one side stood a few huts, and two or three 
fowls were wandering about the street. An old woman, 
standing on a doorstep with a trough in her hands, was 
calling some pigs, which answered her with friendly grunts. 
And this was the place in which I was condemned to spend 
my youth ! Grief took possession of me ; I came away 
from the window and lay down to sleep without eating any 
supper, in spite of the exhortations of Savelitch, who kept 
repeating in a tone of distress : 

" Lord of heaven ! he will eat nothing ! What will my 
mistress say if the child falls ill ? " 

The next morning I had scarcely begun to dress when 
the door opened, and a young officer, somewhat short in 
stature, with a swarthy and rather ill-looking countenance, 
though distinguished by extraordinary vivacity, entered the 

"Pardon me," he said to me in French, "for coming 
without ceremony to make your acquaintance. I heard 
yesterday of your arrival, and the desire to see at last a 
fresh human face took such possession of me, that I could 
not wait any longer. You will understand this when you 
have lived here a little while." 

I conjectured that this was the officer who had been dis- 
missed from the Guards on account of the duel. We soon 
became acquainted. Shvabrin was by no means a fool. 
His conversation was witty and entertaining. With great 
Hveliness he described to me the family of the Comman- 
dant, his society, and the place to which fate had conducted 
me. I was laughing with all my heart when the old soldier 
who had been mending his uniform in the Commandant's 
ante-chamber, came to me, and, in the name of Vassilissa 
Egorovna, invited me to dinner. Shvabrin declared that he 
would go with me. 

On approaching the Commandant's house, we perceived 


on the square about twenty old soldiers, with long pig-tails 
and three-cornered hats. They were standing to the front. 
Before them stood the Commandant, a tall and sprightly 
old man, in a nightcap and flannel dressing-gown. Ob- 
serving us, he came forward towards us, said a few kind words 
to me, and then went on again with the drilling of his men. 
We were going to stop to watch the evolutions, but he 
requested us to go to Vassilissa Egorovna, promising to 
join us in a little while. " Here," he added, " there is 
nothing for you to see." 

Vassilissa Egorovna received us with unfeigned gladness 
and simplicity, and treated me as if she had known me all 
my life. The pensioner and Palashka spread the table- 

" What is detaining my Ivan Kouzmitch so long to-day?" 
said the Commandant's wife. " Palashka, go and call your 
master to dinner, . . . But where is Masha?"^ 

At that moment there entered the room a young girl of 

"about eighteen years of age, with a round, rosy face, and 
light brown hair, brushed smoothly back behind her ears, 
which were tinged with a deep blush. She did not produce 
a very favourable impression upon me at the first glance. I 
regarded her with prejudiced eyes. Shvabrin had described 
Masha, the Captain's daughter, as a perfect idiot. Maria 
Ivanovna ^ sat down in a corner and began to sew. > Mean- 
while, the cabbage-soup was brought in. Vassilissa 
Egorovna, not seeing her husband, sent Palashka after him 
a second time. 

" Tell your master that the guests are waiting, and that 
the soup is getting cold. Thank Heaven, the drill will not 

: run away ! he will have plenty of time to shout himself 

* Diminutive of Maria or Mary. 

^ Mary, 'daughter of Ivan {i.e., Masha), 


34 poushkin's prose tales. 

The Captain soon made his appearance, accompanied by 
the little one-eyed old man. 

" What is the meaning of this, little father ?" said his wife 
to him ; " the dinner has been ready a long time, and you 
would not come." 

" Why, you see, Vassilissa Egorovna," said Ivan Kouz- 
mitch, '* I was occupied with my duties ; I was teaching my 
little soldiers." 

** Nonsense ! " replied his wife ; " it is all talk about your 
teaching the soldiers. The service does not suit them, and 
you yourself don't understand anything about it. It would 
be better for you to stay at home and pray to God. My 
dear guests, pray take your places at the table." 

We sat down to dine. Vassilissa Egorovna was not 
silent for a single moment, and she overwhelmed me with 
questions. Who were my parents? Were they living? 
Where did they live ? How much were they worth ? On 
hearing that my father owned three hundred souls : ^ 

"Really now!" she exclaimed; *'well, there are some 
rich people in the world ! As for us, my little father, we 
have only our one servant-girl, Palashka ; but, thank God, we 
manage to get along well enough ! There is only one thing 
that we are troubled about. Masha is an eligible girl, but 
what has she got for a marriage portion ? A clean comb, a 
hand-broom, and three copecks — Heaven have pity upon, 
her ! — to pay for a bath. If she can find a good man, all 
very well ; if not, she will have to be an old maid." 

I glanced at Maria Ivanovna ; she was blushing all 
over, and tears were even falling into her plate. I began 
to feel pity for her, and I hastened to change the conver- 

"I have heard," said I, as appropriately as I could, 

* The technical name for serfs. 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 35 

" that the Bashkirs are assembling to make an attack upon 
your fortress." 

"And from whom did you hear that, my little father?" 
asked Ivan Kouzmitch. 

" They told me so in Orenburg," I replied. 

*' All nonsense ! " said the Commandant ; " we have heard 
nothing about them for a long time. The Bashkirs are a 
timid lot, and the Kirghises have learnt a lesson. Don't 
be alarmed, they will not attack us; but if they should 
venture to do so, we will teach them such a lesson that 
they will not make another move for the next ten years." 

"And are you not afraid," continued I, turning to the 
Captain's wife, " to remain in a fortress exposed to so many 
dangers ? " - 

" Habit, my little fatHer," she replied. " It is twenty 
years ago since they transferred us from the regiment to 
this place, and you cannot imagine how these accursed 
heathens used to terrify me. If I caught a glimpse of their 
hairy caps now and then, or if I heard their yells, will you 
believe it, my father, my heart would leap almost into my 
mouth. But now I am so accustomed to it that I would 
not move out of my place if anyone came to tell me that 
the villains were prowling round the fortress." 

"Vassilissa Egorovna is a very courageous lady," ob- 
served Shvabrin earnestly ; " Ivan Kouzmitch can bear 
witness to that." 

" Yes, I believe you," said Ivan Kouzmitch ; " the wife is 
not one of the timid ones." 

"And Maria Ivanovna," I asked, "is she as brave as 

" Masha brave ? " replied her mother. " No, Masha is a 
coward. Up to the present time she has never been able to 
hear the report of a gun without trembling all over. Two 
years ago, when Ivan Kouzmitch took the idea into his 



head to fire off our cannon on my name-day,* my little 
dove was so frightened that she nearly died through 
terror. Since then we have never fired off the accursed 

We rose from the table. The Captain and his wife went 
to indulge in a nap, and I accompanied Shvabrin to his 
quarters, where I spent the whole evening. 

^ The Russians do not keep the actual day of their birth, but their 
name-day — that is, the day kept in honour of the saint after whom they 
aj-e called. 




SEVERAL weeks passed by, and my life in the fortress 
of Bailogorsk became not only endurable, but even 
agreeable. In the house of the Commandant I was received 
as one of the family. Both husband and wife were very 
worthy persons. Ivan Kouzmitch, who had risen from the 
ranks, was a simple and unaffected man, but exceedingly 
honest and good-natured. His wife managed things gene- 
rally for him, and this was quite in harmony with his easy- 
going disposition. Vassilissa Egorovna looked after the 
business of the service as well as her own domestic affairs, 
and ruled the fortress precisely as she did her own house. 
Maria Ivanovna soon ceased to be shy in my presence. 
We became acquainted. I found her a sensible and feeling 
girl. In an imperceptible manner I became attached to 
this good family, even to Ivan Ignatitch, the one-eyed 
garrison lieutenant, whom Shvabrin accused of being on 
terms of undue intimacy with Vassilissa Egorovna, an 
accusation which had not a shadow of probabiHty to give 
countenance to it ; but Shvabrin did not trouble himself 
about that. 

I was promoted to the rank of officer. My duties were 
not very heavy. In this God-protected fortress there was 
neither parade, nor drill, nor guard-mounting. The Com- 
mandant sometimes instructed the soldiers for his own 
amusement, but he had not yet got so far as teaching them 


which was the right-hand side and which the left. Shvabrin 
had several French books in his possession. I began to 
read them, and this awakened within me a taste for litera- 
ture. In the morning I read, exercised myself in trans- 
lating, and sometimes even attempted to compose verses. 
I dined nearly always at the Commandant's, where I gene- 
rally spent the rest of the day, and where sometimes of an 
evening came Father Gerasim, with his wife, Akoulina Pam- 
philovna, the greatest gossip in the whole neighbourhood. 
It is unnecessary for me to mention that Shvabrin and I saw 
each other .every day, but his conversation began to be 
more disagreeable the more I saw of him. His continual 
ridiculing of the Commandant's family, and especially his 
sarcastic observations concerning Maria Ivanovna, annoyed 
me exceedingly. There was no other society in the fortress, 
and I wished for no other. 

In spite of the predictions, the Bashkirs did not revolt. 
Tranquillity reigned around our fortress. But the peace 
was suddenly disturbed by civil dissensions. 

I have already mentioned that I occupied myself with 
literature. My essays were tolerable for those days, and 
Alexander Petrovitch Soumarokoff,^ some years afterwards, 
praised them very much. One day I contrived to write a 
little song with which I was much pleased. It is well- 
known that, under the appearance of asking advice, authors 
frequently endeavour to secure a well-disposed listener. 
And so, writing out my little song, I took it to Shvabrin, 
who was the only person in the whole fortress who could 
appreciate a poetical production. After a short preamble, 
I drew my manuscript out of my pocket, and read to him 
the following verses : 

^ A Russian dramatic poet, once celebrated, but now almost for- 
gotten. His most popular works were two tragedies, "Khoreff," and 
♦'Demetrius the Pretender." 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 39 

•* I banish thoughts of love, and try 
My fair one to forget ; 
And, to be free again, I fly 
From Masha with regret. 

** My troubled soul no rest can know. 
No peace of mind for me ; 
For wheresoever I may go, 
Those eyes I still shall see. 

" Take pity, Masha, on this heart 
Oppressed by grief and care ; 
And let compassion rend apart 
The clouds of dark despair. " 

"What do you think of it?" I asked Shvabrin, expecting 
that praise which I considered I was justly entitled to. But, 
to my great disappointment, Shvabrin, who was generally 
complaisant; declared very peremptorily that the verses 
were not worth much. 

'''And why?" I asked, hiding my vexation. 

" Because," he replied, " such verses are worthy of my 
instructor Tredyakovsky,^ and remind me very much of his 
love couplets." 

Then he took the manuscript from me and began un- 
mercifully to pull to pieces every verse and word, jeering at 
me in the most sarcastic manner. This was more than I 
could endure, and snatching my manuscript out of his hand, 
I told him that I would never show him any more of my 
compositions. Shvabrin laughed at my threat. 

" We shall see," said he, " if you will keep your word. A 
poet needs a listener, just as Ivan Kouzmitch needs his 
decanter of brandy before dinner. And who is this Masha 
to whom you declare your tender passion and your amorous 
distress? Can it be Maria Ivanovna?" 

^ A minor poet of the last century. 

40 poushkin's prose tales. 

" That is not your business," replied I, frowning ; " it is 
nothing to do with you who she is. I want neither your 
opinion nor your conjectures." 

" Oho ! my vain poet "and discreet lover ! " continued 
Shvabrin, irritating me more and more. *'But listen to a 
friend's advice ; if you wish to succeed, I advise you not to 
have recourse to writing verses." 

"What do you mean, sir? Please explain yourself." 

" With pleasure. I mean that if you wish Masha Mironoff 
to meet you at dusk, instead of tender verses, you must 
make her a present of a pair of ear-rings." 

My blood began to boil. 

"Why have you such an opinion of her?" I asked, with 
difficulty restraining my anger. 

" Because," replied he, with a fiendish smile, " I know 
from experience her ways and habits." 

'* You lie, scoundrel ! " I exclaimed with fury. " You lie 
in the most shameless manner ! " 

Shvabrin changed colour. 

"This shall not be overlooked," said he, pressing my 
hand. "You shall give me satisfaction." 

" With pleasure, whenever you like," I replied, dehghted 
beyond measure. 

At that moment I was ready to tear him in pieces. 

I immediately hastened to Ivan Ignatitch, and found him 
with a needle in his hand ; in obedience to the commands 
of the Commandant's wife he was stringing mushrooms for 
drying during the winter. 

" Ah, Peter Andreitch," said he, on seeing me, " you are 
welcome. May I ask on what business Heaven has brought 
you here ? " 

In a few words I explained to him that, having had a 
quarrel with Shvabrin, I came to ask him — Ivan Ignatitch — 
to be my second. 


Ivan Ignatitch listened to me with great attention, keep- 
ing his one eye fixed upon me all the while. 

" You wish to say," he said to me, " that you want to kill 
Shvabrin, and that you would like me to be a witness to it ? 
Is that so, may I ask ? 

" Exactly so." 

" In the name of Heaven, Peter Andreitch, whatever are you 
thinking of! You have had a quarrel with Shvabrin. What 
a great misfortune ! A quarrel should not be hung round 
one's neck. He has insulted you, and you have insulted 
him ; he gives you one in the face, and you give him one 
behind the ear ; a second blow from him, another from you 
— and then each goes his own way; in a little while we 
bring about a reconciUation. ... Is it right to kill one's 
neighbour, may I ask ? And suppose that you do kill him 
— God be with him ! I have no particular love for him. 
But what if he were to let daylight through you ? How 
about the matter in that case ? Who would be the worst off 
then, may I ask ? " 

The reasonings of the discreet lieutenant produced no 
effect upon me ; I remained firm in my resolution. 

'*As you please," said Ivan Ignatitch; "do as you like. 
But why should I be a witness to it ? People fight, — what 
is there wonderful in that, may I ask ? Thank Heaven ! I 
have fought against the Swedes and the Turks, and have 
seen enough of every kind of fighting." 

I endeavoured to explain to him, as well as I could, the 
duty of a second ; but Ivan Jgnatitch could not understand 
me at all. 

" Have your own way," said he ; " but if I ought to mix 
myself up in the matter at all, it should be to go to Ivan 
Kouzmitch and report to him, in accordance with the 
rules of the service, that there was a design on foot to 
commit a crime within the fortress, contrary to the interest 

42 poushkin's prose tales. 

of the crown, and to request him to take the necessary 
measures " 

I felt alarmed, and implored Ivan Ignatitch not to say 
anything about the matter to the Commandant ; after much 
difficulty I succeeded in talking him over, he gave me his 
word, and then I took leave of him. 

I spent the evening as usual at the Commandant's house. 
I endeavoured to appear gay and indifferent, so as not to 
excite suspicion, and in order to avoid importunate ques- 
tions ; but I confess that I had not that cool assurance 
which those who find themselves in my position nearly 
always boast about. That evening I was disposed to be 
tender and sentimental. Maria Ivanovna pleased me more 
than usual. The thought that perhaps I was looking at her 
for the last time, imparted to her in my eyes something 
touching. Shvabrin likewise put in an appearance. I took 
him aside and informed him of my interview with Ivan 

"What do we want seconds for?" said he, drily; *'we 
can do without them." 

We agreed to fight behind the hayricks which stood near 
the fortress, and to appear on the ground at seven o'clock 
the next morning. 

We conversed together in such an apparently amicable 
manner that Ivan Ignatitch was nearly betraying us in the 
excess of his joy. 

" You should have done that long ago," he said to me, 
with a look of satisfaction ; " a bad reconciliation is better 
than a good quarrel." 

" What's that, what's that, Ivan Ignatitch ? " said the 
Commandant's wife, who was playing at cards in a corner. 
" I did not hear what you said." 

Ivan Ignatitch, perceiving signs of dissatisfaction upon 
my face, and remembering his promise, became confused, 


and knew not what reply to make. Shvabrin hastened to 
his assistance. 

" Ivan Ignatitch," said he, " approves of our reconcilia- 

"And with whom have you been quarrelling, my little 

"Peter Andreitch and I have had rather a serious fall 

" What about ? " 

" About a mere trifle — about a song, Vassilissa Egorovna." 

" A nice thing to quarrel about, a song ! But how did it 
happen ? " 

" In this way. Peter Andreitch composed a song a short 
time ago, and this morning he began to sing it to me, and I 
began to hum my favourite ditty : 

* Daughter of the Captain, 
Walk not out at midnight.' 

'Then there arose a disagreement. Peter Andreitch grew 
angry, but then he reflected that everyone likes to sing 
what pleases him best, and there the matter ended." 
' Shvabrin's insolence nearly made me boil over with fury ; 
but nobody except myself understood his coarse insinua- 
tions ; at least, nobody paid any attention to them. From 
songs the conversation turned upon poets, and the Com- 
mandant observed that they were all rakes and terrible 
drunkards, and advised me in a friendly manner to have 
nothing to do with poetry, as it was contrary to the rules of 
the service, and would lead to no good. 

Shvabrin's presence was insupportable to me. I soon took 
leave of the Commandant and his family, and returned 
home. I examined my sword, tried the point of it, and 
then lay down to sleep, after giving Savelitch orders to wake 
me at seven o'clock. 

The next morning, at the appointed hour, I stood ready 


behind the hayricks, awaiting my adversary. He soon 
made his appearance. 

"We may be surprised," he said to me, "so we must 
make haste." 

We took off our uniforms, remaining in our waistcoats, 
and drew our swords. At that moment Ivan Ignatitch and 
five of the old soldiers suddenly made their appearance 
from behind a hayrick, and summoned us to go before the 
Commandant. We obeyed with very great reluctance ; the 
soldiers surrounded us, and we followed behind Ivan 
Ignatitch, who led the way in triumph, striding along with 
majestic importance. 

We reached the Commandant's house. Ivan Ignatitch 
threw open the door, exclaiming triumphantly : 

" Here they are ! " 
• Vassilissa Egorovna came towards us. 

" What is the meaning of all this, my dears ? A plot to 
commit murder in our fortress ! Ivan Kouzmitch, put 
them under arrest immediately ! Peter Andreitch ! Alexei 
Ivanitch ! Give up your swords — give them up at once ! 
Palashka, take the swords into the pantry. Peter Andreitch, 
I did not expect this of you ! Are you not ashamed ? As 
regards Alexei Ivanitch, he was turned out of the Guards 
for killing a man ; he does not believe in God. Do you 
wish to be like him ? " 

Ivan Kouzmitch agreed with everything that his wife said, 
and added : 

" Yes, Vassilissa Egorovna speaks the truth ; duels are 
strictly forbidden by the articles of war." 

In the meanwhile Palashka had taken our swords and 
carried them to the pantry. I could not help smiling. 
Shvabrin preserved his gravity. 

" With all due respect to you," he said coldly to her, " I 
cannot but observe that you give yourself unnecessary 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 45 

trouble in constituting yourself our judge. Leave that to 
Ivan Kouzmitch j it is his business." 

'* What do you say, my dear ! " exclaimed the Com- 
mandant's wife. " Are not husband and wife, then, one soul 
and one body ? Ivan Kouzmitch ! what are you staring at ? 
Place them at once in separate corners on bread and water, 
so that they may be brought to their proper senses, and then 
let Father Gerasim impose a penance upon them, that they 
may pray to God for forgiveness, and show themselves 
repentant before men." 

Ivan Kouzmitch knew not what to do. Maria lyanovna 
was exceedingly pale. Gradually the storm blew over ; the 
Commandant's wife recovered her composure, and ordered 
us to embrace each other. Palashka brought back our swords 
to us. We left the Commandant's house to all appearance 
perfectly reconciled. Ivan Ignatitch accompanied us. 

" Were you not ashamed," I said angrily to him, ** to go 
and report us to the Commandant, after having given me 
your word that you would not do so ? " 

" As true as there is a heaven above us, I did not menti6n 
a word about the matter to Ivan Kouzmitch," he replied. 
"Vassilissa Egorovna got everything out of me. She 
arranged the whole business without the Commandant's 
knowledge. However, Heaven be thanked that it has all 
ended in the way that it has ! " 

With these words he returned home, and Shvabrin and I 
remained alone. 

" Our business cannot end in this manner," I said to him. 

" Certainly not," replied Shvabrin ; " your blood shall 
answer for your insolence to me ; but we shall doubtless be 
watched. For a few days, therefore, we must dissemble. 
Farewell, till we meet again." 

And we parted as if nothing were the matter. 

Returning to the Commandant's house I seated myself, as 

4.6 poushkin's prose tales. 

usual, near Maria Ivanovna. Ivan Kouzmitch was not at 
home. Vassilissa Egorovna was occupied with household 
matters. We were conversing together in an under tone. 
Maria Ivanovna reproached me tenderly for the uneasiness 
which I had caused them all by my quarrel with Shvabrin. 

**I almost fainted away," said she, "when they told us that 
you intended to fight with swords. What strange beings men 
are ! For a single word, which they would probably forget a 
week afterwards, they are ready to murder each other and 
to sacrifice not only their life, but their conscience and the 

happiness of those But I am quite sure that you did not 

begin the quarrel. Without doubt, Alexei Ivanitch first 
began it." 

''Why do you think so, Maria Ivanovna?" 

"Because — he is so sarcastic. I do not like Alexei 
Ivanitch. He is very disagreeable to me ; yet it is strange : 
I should not like to displease him. That would cause me 
great uneasiness." 

"And what do you think, Maria Ivanovna — do you 
please him or not ? ** 

Maria Ivanovna blushed and grew confused. 

" I think," said she, " I believe that I please him." 

" And why do you think so ? " 

." Because he once proposed to me." 

" Proposed ! He proposed to you ? And when ? " 

" Last year ; two months before your arrival." 

" And you refused ? " 

" As you see. Alexei Ivanitch is, to be sure, a sensible 
man and of good family, and possesses property ; but when 
I think that I should have to kiss him under the crown ^ in 
the presence of everybody — no ! not for anything in the 
world ! " 

^ Crowns are held above the heads of the bride and bridegroom 
during the marriage ceremony in Russia. 


Maria Ivanovna's words opened my eyes and explained a 
great many things. I now understood why Shvabrin calum- 
niated her so remorselessly. He had probably observed our 
mutual inclination towards each other, and endeavoured to 
produce a coolness between us. The words which had 
been the cause of our quarrel appeared to me still more 
abominable, when, instead of a coarse and indecent jest, I 
was compelled to look upon them in the light of a deliberate 
calumny. The wish to chastise the insolent slanderer became 
still stronger within me, and I waited impatiently for a favour- 
able opportunity for putting it into execution. 

I did not wait long. The next day, when I was occupied 
in composing an elegy, and sat biting my pen while trying 
to think of a rhyme, Shvabrin tapped at my window. I threw 
down my pen, took up my sword, and went out to him. 

" Why should we delay any longer ? " said Shvabrin ; 
"nobody is observing us. Let us go down to the river; 
there no one will disturb us." 

We set out in silence. Descending a winding path, we 
stopped at the edge of the river and drew our swords. 
Shvabrin was more skilful in the use of the weapon than I, 
but I was stronger and more daring, and Monsieur Beaupr^, 
who had formerly been a soldier, had given me some lessons 
in fencing which I had turned to good account. Shvabrin 
had not expected to find in me such a dangerous adversary. 
For along time neither of us was able to inflict any injury 
upon the other ; at last, observing that Shvabrin was begin- 
ning to relax his endeavours, I commenced to attack him with 
increased ardour, and almost forced him back into the river. 
All at once I heard my name pronounced in a loud tone. 
I looked round and perceived Savelitch hastening down the 
path towards me. ... At that same moment I felt a sharp 
thrust in the breast, beneath the right shoulder, and I fell 
senseless to the ground, 




ON recovering consciousness I for some time could 
neither understand nor remember what had hap- 
pened to me. I was lying in bed in a strange room, and 
felt very weak. Before me stood Savelitch with a candle 
in his hand. Someone was carefully unwinding the bandages 
which were wrapped round my chest and shoulder. Little by 
Httle my thoughts became more collected. I remembered 
my duel and conjectured that I was wounded. At that 
moment the door creaked. 

" Well, how is he ? " whispered a voice which sent a thrill 
through me. 

"Still in the same condition," replied Savelitch with a 
sigh ; " still unconscious, and this makes the fifth day that 
he has been like it." 

I wanted to turn round, but I was unable to do so. 

*' Where am I ? Who is here ? " said I with an effort. 

Maria Ivanovna approached my bed and leaned over me. 

*' Well, how do you feel?" said she. 

"God be thanked !" replied I in a weak voice. "Is it 
you, Maria Ivanovna ? Tell me " 

I had not the strength to continue and I became silent. 
Savelitch uttered a shout and his face beamed with delight. 

" He has come to himself again ! He has come to him- 
self again !" he kept on repeating. "Thanks be to Thee, 
Lord 1 Come, little father, Peter Andreitch ! What a 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 49 

fright you have given me ! It is no light matter ; this is the 
fifth day " 

Maria Ivanovna interrupted him. 

" Do not speak to him too much, Savelitch," said she, 
" he is still very weak." 

She went out of the room and closed the door very 
quietly after her. My thoughts became agitated. And so 
I was in the house of the Commandant ; Maria Ivanovna 
had been to see me. I wanted to ask Savelitch a few 
questions, but the old man shook his head and stopped his 
ears. Filled with vexation, I closed my eyes and. soon fell 

When I awoke I called Savelitch, but instead of him I 
saw Maria Ivanovna standing before me ; she spoke to me 
in her angelic voice. I cannot describe the delightful 
sensation which took possession of me at that moment. I 
seized her hand, pressed it to my lips, and watered it with 
my tears. Maria did not withdraw it ... . and suddenly 
her lips touched my cheek, and I felt a hot fresh kiss im- 
printed upon it. A fiery thrill passed through me. 

"Dear, good Maria Ivanovna," I said to her, "be my 
wife, consent to make me happy." 

She recovered herself. 

"For Heaven's sake, calm yourself," said she, withdrawing 
her hand from my grasp; "you are not yet out of danger : 
your wound may re-open. Take care of yourself, if only 
for my sake." 

With these words she left the room, leaving me in a 
transport of bliss. Happiness saved me. "She will be 
mine ! She loves me ! " This thought filled my whole 

From that moment I grew hourly better. The regimental 
barber attended to the dressing of my wound, for there was 
no other doctor in the fortress, and, thank heaven, he did 


not assume any airs of professional wisdom. Youth and 
nature accelerated my recovery. The whole family of the 
Commandant attended upon me. Maria Ivanovna scarcely 
ever left my side. As will naturally be supposed, I seized 
the first favourable opportunity for renewing my interrupted 
declaration of love, and this time Maria Ivanovna listened 
to me more patiently. 

Without the least affectation she confessed that she was 
favourably disposed towards me, and said that her parents, 
without doubt, would be pleased at her good fortune. 

" But think well," she added ; " will there not be oppo- 
sition on the part of your relations ? " 

This set me thinking. I was not at all uneasy on the 
score of my mother's affection ; but, knowing my father's 
disposition and way of thinking, I felt that my love would 
not move him very much, and that he would look upon it 
as a mere outcome of youthful folly. 

I candidly confessed this to Maria Ivanovna, but I re- 
\ solved, nevertheless, to write to my father as eloquently as 
possible, to implore his paternal blessing. I showed the 
letter to Maria Ivanovna, who found it so convincing and 
touching, that she entertained no doubts about the success 
of it, and abandoned herself to the feelings of her tender 
heart with all the confidence of youth and love. 
- With Shvabrin I became reconciled during the first days 
of my convalescence. Ivan Kouzmitch, reproaching me for 
having engaged in the duel, said to me : 

"See now, Peter Andreitch, I ought really to put you 
under arrest, but you have been punished enough already 
without that. As for Alexei Ivanitch, he is confined under 
guard in the corn magazine, and Vassilissa Egorovna has 
got his sword under lock and key. He will now have 
plenty of time to reflect and repent." 

I was too happy to cherish any unfriendly feeling in my 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 5 1 

heart. I began to intercede for Shvabrin, and the good 
Commandant, with the consent of his wife, agreed to restore 
him to liberty. 

Shvabrin came to me ; he expressed deep regret for all 
that had happened, confessed that he alone was to blame, 
and begged of me to forget the past. Not being by nature 
of a rancorous disposition, I readily forgave him the quarrel 
which he had caused between us, and the wound which I 
had received at his hands. In his slander I saw nothing 
but the chagrin of wounded vanity and slighted love, and 
I generously extended pardon to my unhappy rival. 

I soon recovered my health and was able to return to my 
own quarters. I waited impatiently for a reply to my letter, 
not daring to hope, and endeavouring to stifle the sad pre- 
sentiment that was ever uppermost within me. To Vassi- 
Hssa Egorovna and her husband I had not yet given an 
explanation ; but my proposal would certainly not come as a 
surprise to them. Neither Maria Ivanovna nor I had 
endeavoured to hide our feelings from them, and we felt 
assured of their consent beforehand. 

At last, one morning, Savelitch came to me carrying a 
letter in his hand. I seized it with trembling fingers. The 
address was in the handwriting of my father. This prepared 
me for something serious, for the letters I received from 
home were generally written by my mother, my father 
merely adding a few lines at the end as a postscript. For 
a long time I could not make up my mind to break the seal, 
but kept reading again and again the solemn superscription : 

" To my son, Peter Andreitch Grineff, 
** Government ^ of Orenburg, 

" Fortress of Bailogorsk.** 

* For administrative purposes Russia is divided into seventy-two 
governments, exclusive of Finland, which enjoys a separate adminis- 


52 poushkin's prose tales. 

I endeavoured to discover from the handwriting the dis- 
position of mind which my father was in when the letter 
was written. At last I resolved to open it, and I saw at the 
very first glance that all my hopes were shipwrecked. The 
letter ran as follows : — 

" My son Peter, 

'' Your letter, in which you ask for our paternal 
blessing and our consent to your marriage with Maria 
Ivanovna, the daughter of Mironoff, reached us the 15th 
inst., and not only do I intend to refuse to give you my 
blessing and my consent, but, furthermore, I intend to come 
and teach you a lesson for your follies, as I would a child, 
notwithstanding your officer's rank; for you have shown 
yourself unworthy to carry the sword which was entrusted 
to you for the defence of your native country, and not for 
the' purpose of fighting duels with fools like yourself. I 
shall write at once to Andrei Karlovitch to ask him to 
transfer you from the fortress of Bailogorsk to some place 
farther away, where you will be cured of your folly. Your 
mother, on hearing of your duel and your wound, was taken 
ill through grief, and she is now confined to her bed. I 
pray to God that He may correct you, although I hardly 
dare to put my trust in His great goodness. 

*' Your father— A. G." 

The reading of this letter excited within me various 
feelings. The harsh expressions which my father had so 
unsparingly indulged in afflicted me deeply. The con- 
tempt with which he referred to Maria Ivanovna appeared to 
me as indecent as it was unjust. The thought of my being 
transferred from the fortress of Bailogorsk to some other 
military station terrified me, but that which grieved me 
more than everything else was the intelligence of my 


mother's illness. I was very much displeased with Savelitch, 
not doubting that my parents had obtained information of 
my duel through him. After pacing up and down my narrow 
room for some time, I stopped before him and said, as I^ 
looked frown in gly at him : 

" It seems that you are not satisfied that, thanks to you, 
I should be wounded and for a whole month lie at the 
door of death, but you wish to kill my mother also." 

Savelitch gazed at me as if he were thunderstruck. 

" In the name of Heaven, master," said he, almost sob- 
bing, " what do you mean? I the cause of your being 
wounded ! God knows that I was running to screen you 
with my own breast from the sword of Alexei Ivanovitch ! 
My accursed old age prevented me from doing so. But 
what have I done to your mother ? " 

'*What have you done?" replied I. "Who asked you to 
write and denounce me? Have you then been placed near 
me to act as a spy upon me ? " 

" I write and denounce you ?" replied SaveHtch, with tears 
in his eyes. " O Lord, King of Heaven ! Be pleased to 
read what my master has written to me — you will then see 
whether I have denounced you or not." 

And with these words he took from his pocket a letter 
and handed it to me. 

It ran as follows : — 

*' You ought to be ashamed of yourself, you old hound, 
for not having — in spite of my strict injunctions to you to 
do so — written to me and informed me of the conduct of 
my son, Peter Andreitch, and leaving it to strangers to 
acquaint me with his follies. Is it thus that you fulfil your 
duty and your master's will ? I will send you to tend the 
pigs, you old hound, for conceaUng the truth and for in- 
dulging the young man. On receipt of this, I command 
you to write back to me without delay, and inform me of 


the present state of his health, of the exact place of his 
wound, and whether he has been well attended to." 

It was evident that Savelitch was perfectly innocent, and 
that I had insulted him with my reproaches and suspicions 
for no reason at all. I asked his pardon ; but the old man 
was inconsolable. 

" That I should have lived to come to this ! " he kept on 
repeating; "these are the thanks that I receive from my 
master. I am an old hound, a keeper of pigs, and I am 
the cause of your being wounded. No, little father, Peter 
Andreitch, it is not I, but that accursed mossoo who is to 
blame : it was he who taught you to thrust with those iron 
spits and to stamp your foot, as if by thrusting and stamping 
one could protect himself from a bad man. It was very 
necessary to engage that mossoo and so throw good money 
to the winds ! " 

But who then had taken upon himself the trouble to 
denounce my conduct to my father ? The general ? But 
he did not appear to trouble himself in the least about me ; 
and Ivan Kouzmitch had not considered it necessary to 
report my duel to him. I became lost in conjecture. My 
suspicions settled upon Shvabrin. He alone could derive 
any advantage from the denunciation, the result of which 
might be my removal from the fortress a^d separation from 
the Commandant's family. I went to inform Maria Ivanovna 
of everything. She met me on the steps leading up to the 

"What has happened, to you?" said she, on seeing me; 
" how pale you are ! " 

" It is all over," replied I, and I gave her my father's 

She now grew pale in her turn. Having read the letter, 
she returned it to me with a trembling hand, and said, with 
a quivering voice : 



" Fate ordains that I should not be your wife. . . . Your 
parents will not receive me into their family. God's will be 
done ! God knows better than we do, what is good for us. 
There is nothing to be done, Peter Andreitch ; may you be 
happy " 

" It shall not be ! " I exclaimed, seizing hold of her hand. 
"You love me; I am prepared for everything. Let us go 
and throw ourselves at the feet of your parents ; they are 
simple people, not hard-hearted and proud. They will 
give us their blessing ; we will get married . . . and then, 
with time, I feel quite certain that we shall succeed in 
bringing my father round ; my mother will be on our side ; 
he will forgive me " 

" No, Peter Andreitch," replied Masha, ** I will not marry 
you without the blessing of your parents. Without their 
blessing you will not be happy. Let us submit to the will 
of God. If you meet with somebody else, if you love 

another God be with you, Peter Andreitch, I will pray 

for you both " 

Then she burst into tears and left me. I wanted to 
follow her into her room, but I felt that I was not in a con- 
dition to control myself, and I returned home to my quarters. 

I was sitting down, absorbed in profound thoughtfulness, 
when Savelitch interrupted my meditations. 

" Here, sir," said he, handing me a written sheet of 
paper : '* see whether I am a spy upon my master, and 
whether I try to cause trouble between father and son." 

I took the paper out of his hand. It was the reply of 
Savelitch to the letter which he had received. Here it is, 
word for word : 

** Lord Andrei Petrovitch, our gracious father, 

" I have received your gracious letter, in which you 
are pleased to be angry with me, your slave, telling me that 

56 poushkin's prose tales. 

I ought to be ashamed of myself for not fulfilling my 
master's orders. I am not an old hound, but your faithful 
servant, and I do obey my master's orders, and I have 
always served you zealously till my grey hairs. I did not 
write anything to you about Peter Andreitch's wound, in 
order that I might not alarm you without a reason, and now 
I hear that our lady, our mother, Avdotia Vassilevna, is ill 
from fright, and I am going to pray to God to restore her to 
health. Peter Andreitch was wounded under the right 
shoulder, in the breast, exactly under a rib, to the depth of 
nearly three inches, and he was put to bed in the Com- 
mandant's house, whither we carried him from the bank of 
the river, and he was healed by Stepan Paramonoff, the 
barber of this place, and now, thank God, Peter Andreitch 
is well, and I have nothing but good to write about him. 
His superior officers, I hear, are satisfied with him ; and 
Vassilissa Egorovna treats him as if he were her own son. 
And because such an accident occurred to him, the young 
man ought not to be reproached : the horse has four legs, and 
yet he stumbles. And if it please you to write that I should 
go and feed the pigs, let your lordly will be done. Herewith 
I humbly bow down before you. 

" Your faithful slave, 

"Arkhip Savelitch.** 

I could not help smiling several times while reading the 
good old man's letter. I was not in a condition to reply 
to my father, and Savehtch's letter seemed to me quite 
sufficient to calm my mother's fears. 

From this time my situation changed. Maria Ivanovna 
scarcely ever spoke to me, nay, she even tried to avoid me. 
The Commandant's house began to become insupportable 
to me. Little by little I accustomed myself to remaining 
at home alone. Vassilissa Egorovna reproached me for it 


at first, but perceiving my obstinacy, she left me in peace. 
Ivan Kouzmitch I only saw when the service demanded it ; 
with Shvabrin I rarely came into contact, and then against 
my will, all the more so because I observed in him a secret 
enmity towards me, which confirmed me in my suspicions. 
My life became unbearable to me. I sank into a profound 
melancholy, which was enhanced by loneliness and inaction. 
My love grew more intense in my solitude, and became 
more and more tormenting to me. I lost all pleasure in 
reading and literature. I grew dejected. I was afraid that 
I should either go out of my mind or that I should give way 
to dissipation. But an unexpected event, which exercised 
an important influence upon my after life, suddenly occurred 
to give to my soul a powerful and salutary shock. 




BEFORE I proceed to write a description of the strange 
events of which I was a witness, I must say a few 
words concerning the condition of the government of Oren- 
burg towards the end of the year 1773. 

This rich and extensive government was inhabited by 
hordeg of half-savage people, who had only recently ac- 
knowledged the sovereignty of the Russian Czars. Their 
continual revolts, their disinclination to a civilized life and 
an existence regulated by laws, their fickleness and cruelty, 
demanded on the part of the government a constant vigi- 
lance in order to keep them in subjection. Fortresses had 
been erected in convenient places, and were garrisoned for 
the most part by Cossacks, who had formerly held posses- 
sion of the shores of the Yaik. But these Yaikian Cossacks, 
whose duty it was to preserve peace and to watch over the 
security of this district, had themselves for some time past 
become very troublesome and dangerous to the government. 
In the year 1772 an insurrection broke out in their principal 
city. The causes of it were the severe measures taken by 
General Traubenberg to bring the army into a state of obedi- 
ence. The result was the barbarous murder of Traubenberg, 
the selection of new leaders, and finally the suppression of 
the revolt by grapeshot and cruel punishments. 

This happened a little while before my arrival at the 
fortress of Bailogorsk. All was now quiet, or at least 


appeared so ; but the authorities believed too easily in the 
pretended repentance of the cunning rebels, who nursed 
their hatred in secret and only waited for a favourable 
opportunity to recommence the struggle. 

I now return to my narrative. 

One evening (it was in the beginning of October in the 
year 1773) I was sitting indoors alone, listening to the 
moaning of the autumn wind, and gazing out of the window 
at the clouds, as they sailed rapidly over the face of the 
moon. A message was brought to me to wait upon the 
Commandant. I immediately repaired to his quarters. I 
there found Shvabrin, Ivan Ignatitch, and the Cossack 
orderly. Neither Vassilissa Egorovna nor Maria Ivanovi^a 
was in the room. The Commandant greeted me with a 
pre-occupied air. He closed the door, made us all sit-down 
except the orderly, who remained standing near the*door, 
drew a paper out of his pocket, and said to us : — 

" Gentlemen, we have here important news ! Hear what 
the general writes." 

Then he put on his spectacles and read as follows : 

" To the Commandant of the Fortress of Bailogorsk, 
Captain Mironoff. {Confidential.) 

"I hereby inform you that the fugitive and schismatic 
Don Cossack, Emelian Pougatcheff, after having been 
guilty of the unpardonable insolence of assuming the name 
of the deceased Emperor Peter HI.,^ has collected a band 
of evil -disposed persons, has excited disturbances in the 

^ Husband of the Empress Catherine W. The latter, whom the 
Emperor had threatened to divorce, having won over to her side a con- 
siderable portion of the army, had compelled her unpopular consort to 
sign an act of abdication in 1762. Having been removed as a prisoner 
to Ropscha, it was shortly afterwards announced that he had died of 
colic, though the truth was, he had been strangled to death by Alexis 
Orloff, one of Catherine's numerous admirers. 


settlements along the banks of the Yaik, and has already 
taken and destroyed several fortresses, pillaging and murder- 
ing on every side. Therefore, on the receipt of this letter, 
you, Captain, will at once take the necessary measures to 
repel the above-mentioned villain and impostor, and, if 
possible, to completely annihilate him, if he should turn his 
arms against the fortress entrusted to your care." 

" Take the necessary measures," said the Commandant, 
taking off his spectacles and folding up the letter ; " you see 
that it is very easy to say that. The villain is evidently 
strong in numbers, whereas we have but 130 men altogether, 
not counting the Cossacks, upon whom we can place very 
little dependence — without intending any reproach to you, 
Maximitch." The orderly smiled. " Still, there is no help 
for it, but to do the best we can, gentlemen. Let us be on 
our guard and establish night patrols; in case of attack, 
shut the gates and assemble the soldiers. You, Maximitch, 
keep a strict eye on your Cossacks. See that the cannon 
be examined and thoroughly cleaned. Above all things, 
keep what I have said a secret, so that nobody in the fortress 
may know anything before the time." 

After giving these orders, Ivan Kouzmitch dismissed us. 
I walked away with Shvabrin, reflecting upon what we had 

" How do you think that this will end ? " I asked him. 

"God knows," he replied; *'we shall see. I do not see 
anything to be alarmed about at present. If, however " 

Then he began to reflect and to whistle abstractedly a 
French air. 

In spite of all our precautions, the news of the appearance 
of Pougatcheff soon spread through the fortress. Although 
Ivan Kouzmitch entertained the greatest respect for his wife, 
he would not for anything in the world have confided to her 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 6l 

a secret entrusted to him in connection with the service. 
After having received the general's letter, he contrived in a 
tolerably dexterous manner to get Vassilissa Egorovna out of 
the way, telling her that Father Gerasim had received some 
extraordinary news from Orenburg, which he kept a great 
secret. Vassilissa Egorovna immediately wished to go and 
pay a visit to the pope's wife and, by the advice of Ivan 
Kouzmitch, she took Masha with her, lest she should feel 
dull by herself. 

Ivan Kouzmitch, being thus left sole master of the situa- 
tion, immediately sent for us, having locked Palashka in the 
pantry, so that she might not be able to overhear what we 
had to say. 

Vassilissa Egorovna returned home, without having suc- 
ceeded in getting anything out of the pope's wife, and she 
learned that, during her absence, a council of war had been 
held in Ivan Kouzmitch's house, and that Palashka had 
been under lock and key. She suspected that she had been 
duped by her husband, and she began to assail him with 
questions. But Ivan Kouzmitch was prepared for the attack. 
He was not in the least perturbed, and boldly made answer 
to his inquisitive consort : 

" Hark you, mother dear, our women hereabouts have 
taken a notion into their heads to heat their ovens with 
straw, and as some misfortune might be the outcome of it, 
I gave strict orders that the women should not heat their 
ovens with straw, but should burn brushwood and branches 
of trees instead." 

" But why did you lock up Palashka, then ? " asked his 
wife. "Why was the poor girl compelled to sit in the 
kitchen till we returned ? " 

Ivan Kouzmitch was not prepared for such a question ; 
he became confused, and stammered out something very 
incoherent. Vassilissa Egorovna perceived her husband's 

62 poushkin's prose tales. 

perfidy, but, knowing that she would get nothing out of him 
just then, she abstained from asking any further questions 
and turned the conversation to the subject of the pickled 
cucumbers, which Akoulina Pamphilovna knew how to 
prepare in such an excellent manner. But all that night 
Vassilissa Egorovna could not sleep a wink, nor could she 
understand what it was that was in her husband's head that 
she was not permitted to know. 

The next day, as she was returning home from mass, she 
saw Ivan Ignatitch, who was busily engaged in clearing 
the cannon of pieces of rag, small stones, bits of bone, and 
rubbish of every sort, which had been deposited there by 
the little boys of the place. m 

"What mean these warlike preparations?** thought the 
Commandant's wife. " Can it be that they fear an attack on 
the part of the Kirghises? But is it possible that Ivan 
Kouzmitch could conceal such a trifle from me ? " 

She called Ivan Ignatitch to her with the firm determina- 
tion of learning from him the secret which tormented her 
woman's curiosity. 

Vassillissa Egorovna began by making a few observations 
to him about household matters, like a judge who commences 
an examination with questions foreign to the matter in hand, 
in order to lull the suspicions of the person accused. Then, 
after a silence of a few moments, she heaved a deep sigh, 
and said, shaking her head : 

" Oh, Lord God !. What news ! What will be the end of 
all this?" 

" Well, well, mother ! " replied Ivan Ignatitch ; " God 
is merciful; we have soldiers enough, plenty of powder, 
and I have cleaned the cannon. Perhaps we shall be 
able to offer a successful resistance to this Pougatcheff ; if 
God will only not abandon us, we shall be safe enough 


" And what sort of a man is this Pougatcheff ? " asked the 
Commandant's wife. 

Then Ivan Ignatitch perceived that he had said more 
than he ought to have done, and he bit his tongue. But it 
was now too late. VassiUssa Egorovna compelled him to 
inform her of everything, having given him her word that 
she would not mention the matter to anybody. 
I Vassilissa Egorovna kept her promise and said not a word 
|to anybody, except to the pope's wife, and to her only because 
ler cow was still feeding upon the steppe, and might be 
captured by the brigands. 

Soon everybody was talking about Pougatcheff. The 
eports concerning him varied very much. The Comman- 
dant sent his orderly to glean as much information as pos- 
sible about him in all the neighbouring villages and fortresses. 
The orderly returned after an absence of two days, and re- 
ported that, at about sixty versts from the fortress, he had seen 
L large number of fires upon the steppe, and that he had heard 
rem the Bashkirs that an immense force was advancing. 
He could not say anything more positive, because he had 
beared to venture further. 

An unusual agitation now began to be observed among 
he Cossacks of the fortress ; in all the streets they con- 
egated in small groups, quietly conversing among them- 
elves, and dispersing whenever they caught sight of a 
dragoon or any other soldier belonging to the garrison. 
They were closely watched by spies. Youlai, a converted 
Calmuck, made an important communication to the com- 
mandant. The orderly's report, according to Youlai, was a 
false one ; on his return the treacherous Cossack announced 
to his companions that he had been among the rebels, and 
had been presented to their leader, who had given him his 
hand and had conversed with him for a long time. The 
Commandant immediately placed the orderly under arrest, 

64 poushkin's prose tales. 

and appointed Youlai in his place. This change was the 
cause of manifest dissatisfaction among the Cossacks. They 
murmured loudly, and Ivan Ignatitch, who executed the 
Commandant's instructions, with his own ears heard them 

*' Just wait a little while, you garrison rat !" 

The Commandant had intended interrogating the prisoner 
that very same day, but the orderly had made his escape, 
no doubt with the assistance of his partisans. 

A fresh event served to increase the Commandant's un- 
easiness. A Bashkir, carrying seditious letters, was seized. 
On this occasion the Commandant again decided upon 
assembling his officers, and therefore he wished once more to 
get Vassilissa Egorovna out of the way under some plausible 
pretext. But as Ivan Kouzmitch was a most upright and 
sincere man, he could find no other method than that 
employed on the previous occasion. 

** Listen, Vassilissa Egorovna," he said to her, coughing 
to conceal his embarrassment: **they say that Father 
Gerasim has received " 

"That's enough, Ivan Kouzmitch," said his wife, inter- 
rupting him: "you wish to assemble a council of war to 
talk about Emelian Pougatcheff without my being present ; 
but you shall not deceive me this time." 

Ivan Kouzmitch opened his eyes. 

" Well, little mother," he said, " if you know everything, 
you may remain ; we shall speak in your presence." 

"Very well, my little father," replied she; "you should 
not try to be so cunning ; send for the officers." 

We assembled again. Ivan Kouzmitch, in the presence 
of his wife, read to us Pougatcheff" 's proclamation, drawn 
up probably by some half-educated Cossack. The robber 
announced therein his intention of immediately marching 
upon our fortress ; he invited the Cossacks and soldiers to 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 6$ 

join him, and advised the superior officers not to offer any 
resistance, threatening them with death in the event of their 
doing so. The proclamation was couched in coarse but 
vigorous language, and could not but produce a powerful 
impression upon the minds of simple people. 

" What a rascal ! " exclaimed the Commandant's wife ; 
" that he should propose such a thing to us. To go out to 
meet him and lay our flags at his feet ! Ah ! the son of a 
dog ! He does not know then that we have been forty 
years in the service, and that, thanks to God, we have seen 
a good deal during that time. Is it possible that there are 
commandants who would be cowardly enough to yield to a 
robber like him ? " 

" There ought not to be," replied Ivan Kouzmitch ; " but 
it is reported that the scoundrel has already taken several 

" He seems to have great power," observed Shvabrin. 

" We shall soon find out the real extent of his power," 
said the Commandant. *' Vassilissa Egorovna, give me the 
key of the loft. Ivan Ignatitch, bring hither the Bashkir, 
and tell Youlai to fetch a whip." 

** Wait a moment, Ivan Kouzmitch," said his wife, rising 
from her seat. '' Let me take Masha somewhere out of the 
house ; otherwise she will hear the cries and will feel 
frightened. And I myself, to tell the truth, am no lover of 
inquisitions. So good-bye for the present." 

Torture, in former times, was so rooted in our judicial 
proceedings, that the benevolent ukase ' ordering its aboli- 
tion remained for a long time a dead letter. It was thought 
that the confession of the criminal was indispensable for 
his full conviction — an idea not only unreasonable, but even 
contrary to common sense from a jurisprudential point of 
view ; for if the denial of the accused person be not accepted 
' Torture was abolished in 1768 by an edict of Catherine II. 


as proof of his innocence, the confession that has been 
wrung from him ought still less to be accepted as a proof 
of his guilt. Even in our days I sometimes hear old judges 
regretting the abolition of the barbarous custom. But in 
those days nobody had any doubt about the necessity of 
torture, neither the judges nor even the accused persons 
themselves. Therefore it was that the Commandant's order 
did not astonish or alarm any of us. Ivan Ignatitch went 
to fetch the Bashkir, who was confined in the loft, under 
lock and key, and a few minutes afterwards he was led 
prisoner into the ante-room. The Commandant ordered 
the captive to be brought before him. 

The Bashkir stepped with difficulty across the threshold 
(for his feet were in fetters) and, taking off his high cap, 
remained standing near the door. I glanced at him and 
shuddered. Never shall I forget that man. He appeared 
to be about seventy years of age, and had neither nose nor 
ears. His head was shaved, and instead of a beard he had 
a few grey hairs upon his chin ; he was of short stature, thin 
and bent ; but his small eyes still flashed fire. 

" Ah, ah ! " said the Commandant, recognizing by these 
dreadful marks one of the rebels punished in the year 1741, 
"I see you are an old wolf; you have already been caught 
in our traps. It is not the first time that you have rebelled, 
since your head is planed so smoothly. Come nearer; 
speak, who sent you here ? " 

The old Bashkir remained silent and gazed at the Com- 
mandant with an air of complete stolidity. 

**Why do you not answer?" continued Ivan Kouzmitch. 
" Don't you understand Russian ? Youlai, ask him in your 
language, who sent him to our fortress." 

Youlai repeated the Commandant's question in the Tartar 
language. But the Bashkir looked at him with the same 
expression and answered not a word. 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 6^ 

" By heaven ! " exclaimed the Commandant, " you shall 
answer me. My lads ! take off that ridiculous striped gown 
of his, and tickle his back. Youlai, see that it is carried 
out properly." 

Two soldiers began to undress the Bashkir. The face of 
the unhappy man assumed an expression of uneasiness. 
He looked round on every side, like a poor little animal 
that has been captured by children. But when one of the 
soldiers seized his hands to twine them round his neck, 
and raised the old man upon his shoulders, and Youlai 
grasped the whip and began to flourish it round his head, 
then the Bashkir uttered a feeble groan, and, raising his 
head, opened his mouth, in which, instead of a tongue, 
moved a short stump. 

When I reflect that this happened during my lifetime, 
and that I now live under the mild government of the 
Emperor Alexander, I cannot but feel astonished at the 
rapid progress of civilization, and the diflusion of humane 
ideas. Young man ! if these lines of mine should fall into 
your hands, remember that those changes which proceed 
from an amelioration of manners and customs are much 
better and more lasting than those which are the outcome 
of acts of violence. 

We were all horror-stricken. 

"Well," said the Commandant, "it is evident that we 
shall get nothing out of him. Youlai, lead the Bashkir 
back to the loft ; and let us, gentlemen, have a little further 
talk about the matter." 

We were yet considering our position, when Vassilissa 
Egorovna suddenly rushed into the room, panting for 
breath, and beside herself with excitement. 

*'What has happened to you?" asked the astonished 

" I have to inform you of a great misfortune ! " replied 



Vassilissa Egorovna. ''Nijniosern was taken this morning. 
Father Gerasim's servant has just returned from there. He 
saw how they took it. The Commandant and all the officers 
are hanged, and all the soldiers are taken prisoners. In a 
little while the villains will be here." 

This unexpected intelligence produced a deep impression 
upon me. The Commandant of the fortress of Nijniosern, 
a quiet and modest young man, was an acquaintance of 
mine ; two months before he had visited our fortress when 
on his way from Orenburg along with his young wife, and 
had stopped for a little while in the house of Ivan Kouz- 
mitch-. Nijniosern was about twenty-five versts from our 
fortress. We might therefore expect to be attacked by 
Pougatcheff at any moment. The fate in store for Maria 
Ivanovna presented itself vividly to my imagination, and 
my heart sank within me. 

" Listen, Ivan Kouzmitch," said I to the Commandant ; 
*' our duty is to defend the fortress to the last gasp ; there 
is no question about that. But we must think about the 
safety of the women. Send them on to Orenburg, if the 
road be still open, or to some safer and more distant 
fortress where these villains will not be able to make their 

Ivan Kouzmitch turned round to his wife and said to 
her : 

" Listen, mother ; would it not be just as well if we sent 
you away to some place farther off until we have settled 
matters with these rebels ? " 

" What nonsense ! " said the Commandant's wife. " Where 
is there a fortress that would be safe from bullets ? Why is 
Bailogorsk not safe ? Thank God, we have lived in it for 
two-and-twenty years ! We have seen Bashkirs and Kirghises ; 
perhaps we shall also escape the clutches of Pougatcheff." 

" Well, mother," replied Ivan Kouzmitch, '' stay if you 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 69 

like, if you have such confidence in our fortress. But what 
shall we do with Masha? All well and good if we offer a 
successful resistance, or can hold out till we obtain help; 
but what if the villains should take the fortress ? " 

"Why, then " 

But at this juncture Vassilissa Egorovna began to stammer 
and then remained silent, evidently agitated by deep 

*' No, Vassilissa Egorovna," continued the Commandant, 
observing that his words had produced an impression upon 
her, perhaps for the first time in his life, " Masha must not 
remain here. Let us send her to Orenburg, to her god- 
mother ; there are plenty of soldiers and cannon there, and 
the walls are of stone. And I would advise you to go there 
with her ; for although you are an old woman, think what 
might happen to you if the fortress should be taken by 

" Very well," replied the Commandant's wife ; " let it be 
so : we will send Masha away. As for me, you need not 
trouble yourself about asking me to go ; I will remain here. 
Nothing shall make me part from you in my old age to go 
and seek a lonely grave in a strange country. Together we 
have lived, together we will die." 

**Well, you are right," said the Commandant; *' but let 
us not delay any longer. Go and get Masha ready for the 
journey. She must set out at daybreak to-morrow, and we 
shall let her have an escort, although we have not too many 
men in the fortress to be able to spare any of them. But 
where is Masha ? " 

"Along with Akoulina Pamphilovna," replied the Com- 
mandant's wife. " She fainted away when she heard of the 
capture of Nijniosern; I am afraid that she will be ill. 
Lord God of heaven, what have we lived to see ! " 

Vassilissa Egorovna went to prepare for her daughter's 


departure. The consultation with the Commandant was 
then continued ; but I no longer took any part in it, nor 
did I listen to anything that was said. Maria Ivanovna 
appeared at supper, her face pale and her eyes red with 
weeping. We supped in silence, and rose from the table 
sooner than usual ; then taking leave of the family, we all 
returned to our respective quarters. But I intentionally 
forgot my sword, and went back for it : I had a presenti- 
ment that I should find Maria alone. True enough I met 
her in the doorway, and she handed me my sword. 

" Farewell, Peter Andreitch ! " she said to me, with tears 
in her eyes; "they are going to send me to Orenburg. 
May you be well and happy. God may be pleased to 
prdain that we should see each other again ; if not " 

Here she burst out sobbing. I clasped her in my arms. 

" Farewell, my angel ! " said I. ** Farewell, my darling, my 
heart's desire ! Whatever may happen to me, rest assured 
that my last thought and last prayer shall be for you." 

Masha still continued to weep, resting her head upon 
my breast. I kissed her fervently, and hastily quitted the 




THAT night I neither slept nor undressed. It was my 
intention to proceed early in the morning to the gate 
of the fortress through which Maria Ivanovna would have 
to pass, so that I might take leave of her for the last time. 
I felt within myself a great change ; the agitation of my soul 
was far less burdensome to me than the melancholy into 
which I had lately fallen. With the grief of separation there 
was mingled a vague, but sweet hope, an impatient expecta- 
tion of danger, a feeling of noble ambition. 

The night passed away imperceptibly. I was just about 
to leave the house when my door opened, and the corporal 
entered the room with the information that our Cossacks 
had quitted the fortress during the night, taking Youlai by 
force along with them, and that strange people were riding 
round the fortress. The thought that Maria Ivanovna 
would not be able to get away filled me with alarm. I 
hurriedly gave some orders to the corporal, and then 
hastened at once to the Commandant's quarters. 

Day had already begun to dawn. I was hurrying along 
the street when I heard someone call out my name. I 

" Where are you going ? " said Ivan Ignatitch, overtaking 
me. " Ivan Kouzmitch is on the rampart, and he has sent 
me for you. Pougatch ^ has come." 

A pun on the name of the rebel chief. Literally, " a scarecrow." 


" Has Maria Ivanovna left the fortress?" I asked, with a 
trembling heart. 

" She was unable to do so," replied Ivan Ignatitch ; " the 
road to Orenburg is cut off and the fortress is surrounded. 
It is a bad look-out, Peter Andreitch." 

We made our way to the rampart, an elevation formed by 
nature and fortified by a palisade. The inhabitants of the 
fortress were already assembled there. The garrison stood 
drawn up under arms. The cannon had been dragged 
thither the day before. The Commandant was walking up 
and down in front of his little troop. The approach of 
danger had inspired the old warrior with unusual vigour. 
On the steppe, not very far from the fortress, about a score 
of men could be seen riding about on horseback. They 
seemed to be Cossacks, but among them were some Bashkirs, 
who were easily recognized by their hairy caps, and by their 

The Commandant walked along the ranks of his little 
army, saying to the soldiers : 

"Now, my children, let us stand firm to-day for our 
mother the Empress,, and let us show the whole world that 
we are brave people, and true to our oath." 

The soldiers responded to his appeal with loud shouts. 
Shvabrin stood near me and attentively observed the enemy. 
The people riding about on the steppe, perceiving some 
movement in the fortress, gathered together in a group and 
began conversing among themselves. The Commandant 
ordered Ivan Ignatitch to point the cannon at them, and 
then applied the match to it with his own hand. The ball 
whistled over their heads, without doing any harm. The 
horsemen dispersed, galloping out of sight almost imme- 
diately, and the steppe was deserted. 

At that moment Vassilissa Egorovna appeared upon the 
rampart, followed by Masha, who was unwilling to leave her. 


"Well," said the Commandant's wife, "how goes the 
battle ? Where is the enemy ? " 

"The enemy is not far off," replied Ivan Kouzmitch. 
" God grant that all may go well ! . . . Well, Masha, do 
you feel afraid ? " 

** No, papa," replied Maria Ivanovna j " I feel more afraid 
being at home alone." 

Then she looked at me and made an effort to smile. I 
involuntarily grasped the hilt of my sword, remembering 
that I had received it from her hand the evening before — 
as if for the protection of my beloved. My heart throbbed. 
I imagined myself her champion. I longed to prove that I 
was worthy of her confidence, and waited impatiently for 
the decisive moment. 

All of a sudden some fresh bodies of mounted men made 
their appearance from behind an elevation situated about half 
a mile from the fortress, and soon the steppe was covered 
with crowds of persons armed with lances and quivers. 
Among them, upon a white horse, was a man in a red caftan^ 
holding a naked sword in his hand ; this was Pougatcheff 
himself. He stopped his horse, and the others gathered round 
him, and, in obedience to his order as it seemed, four men 
detachtd themselves from the crowd and galloped at full 
speed towards the fortress. We recognized among them some 
of our traitors. One of them held a sheet of paper above his 
head, while another bore upon the top of his lance the head 
of Youlai, which he threw over the palisade among us. The 
head of the poor Calmuck fell at the feet of the Commandant. 

The traitors cried out : 

" Do not fire ! Come out and pay homage to the Czar. 
The Czar is here ! " 

''Look out for yourselves!" cried Ivan Kouzmitch, 
" Ready, lads— fire ! " 

^ A kind of overcoat 

74 poushkin's prose tales. 

Our soldiers fired a volley. The Cossack who held the 
letter staggered and fell from his horse ; the others galloped 
back. I turned and looked at Maria Ivanovna. Terror- 
stricken by the sight of the bloodstained head of Youlai, 
and stunned by the din of the discharge, she seemed per- 
fectly paralyzed. The Commandant called the corporal and 
ordered him to fetch the paper from the hands of the fallen 
Cossack. The corporal went out into the plain, and re- 
turned leading by the bridle the horse of the dead man. 
He handed the letter to the Commandant. Ivan Kouzmitch 
read it to himself and then tore it into pieces. In the mean- 
time we could see the rebels preparing for the attack. Soon 
the bullets began to whistle about our ears, and several 
arrows fell close to us, sticking in the ground and in the 

" Vassilissa Egorovna ! " said the Commandant ; "women 
have no business here. Take Masha away; you see that 
the girl is more dead than alive." 

Vassilissa Egorovna, tamed by the bullets, cast a glance 
at the steppe, where a great commotion was observable, and 
then turned round to her husband and said to him : 

"Ivan Kouzmitch, life and death are in the hands of 
God ; bless Masha. Masha, come near to your father." 

Masha, pale and trembling, approached Ivan Kouzmitch, 
knelt down before him, and bowed herself to the ground. 
The old Commandant made the sign of the cross over her 
three times, then raised her up, and kissing her, said in a 
voice of deep emotion : 

" Well, Masha, be happy. Pray to God ; He will never 
forsake you. If you find a good man, may God give you 
love and counsel. Live together as your mother and I have 
lived. And now, farewell, Masha. Vassilissa Egorovna, 
take her away quickly." 

Masha threw her arms round his neck and sobbed aloud. 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 75 

" Let us kiss each other also," said the Commandant's 
wife, weeping, " Farewell, my Ivan Kouzmitch. Forgive 
me if I have ever vexed you in any way ! " 

*' Farewell, farewell, little mother ! " said the Comman- 
dant, embracing the partner of his joys and sorrows for so 
many years. " Come now, that is enough ! Make haste 
home ; and if you can manage it, put a sarafan ^ on Masha." 

The Commandant's wife walked away along with her 
daughter. I followed Maria Ivanovna with my eyes ; she 
turned round and nodded her head to me. 

Ivan Kouzmitch then returned to us, and bestowed all his 
attention upon the enemy. The rebels gathered round their 
leader and suddenly dismounted from their horses. 

" Stand firm now," said the Commandant, " the assault is 
going to begin." 

At that moment frightful yells and cries rose in the air ; 
the rebels dashed forward towards the fortress. Our cannon 
was loaded with grape-shot. 

The Commandant allowed them to come very close, and 
then suddenly fired again. The grape fell into the very 
midst of the crowd. The rebels recoiled and then dispersed 
on every side. Their leader alone remained facing us. He 
waved his sword and seemed to be vehemently exhorting 
his followers to return to the attack. The shrieks and 
j^ells, which had ceased for a minute, were immediately 

" Now, lads ! " said the Commandant ; " open the gate, 
jeat the drum, and let us make a sally. Forward, and 
follow me ! " 

The Commandant, Ivan Ignatitch, and I were outside 

^ A wide open robe without sleeves, beneath which is worn a full 
ong-sleeved gown. It is usually made of velvet, richly embroidered, 
he embroidery varying according to the rank of the wearer. It is the 
nistom among the Russians to bury the dead in their richest dress. 


the wall of the fortress in a twinkling ; but the timid garrison 
did not move. 

"Why do you hold back, my children?" cried Ivan 
Kouzmitch. " If we are to die, let us die doing our duty ! " 

At that moment the rebels rushed upon us and forced an 
entrance into the fortress. The drum ceased to beat ; the 
garrison flung down their arms. I was thrown to the ground, 
but I rose up and entered the fortress along with the rebels. 
The Commandant, wounded in the head, was surrounded by 
a crowd of the robbers, who demanded of him the keys. I 
was about to rush to his assistance, but several powerful 
Cossacks seized hold of me and bound me with their sashes, 
exclaiming : 

"Just wait a little while and see what you will get, you 
traitors to the Czar ! " 

They dragged us through the streets; the inhabitants 
came out of their houses with bread and salt ; ^ the bells 
began to ring. Suddenly among the crowd a cry was raised 
that the Czar was in the square waiting for the prisoners to 
take their oath of allegiance to him. The throng pressed 
towards the market-place, and our captors dragged us thither 

Pougatcheff was seated in an armchair on the steps of 
the Commandant's house. He was attired in an elegant 
Cossack caftan^ ornamented with lace. A tall cap of sable, 
with gold tassels, came right down to his flashing eyes. His 
face seemed familiar to me. He was surrounded by the 
Cossack chiefs. Father Gerasim, pale and trembling, stood 
upon the steps with a cross in his hands, and seemed to be 
silently imploring mercy for the victims brought forward. 
In the square a gallows was being hastily erected. As we 
approached, the Bashkirs drove back the crowd, and we 

^ The customary offering to a Russian emperor on entering a town. 
The act is indicative of submission. 


were brought before Pougatcheff. The bells had ceased 
ringing, and a deep silence reigned around. 

"Which is the Commandant?" asked the pretender. 

Our orderly stepped forward out of the crowd and pointed 
to Ivan Kouzmitch. 

Pougatcheff regarded the old man with a menacing look, 
and said to him : 

" How dared you oppose me — your emperor ? " 

The Commandant, weakened by his wound, summoned 
ill his remaining strength and replied in a firm voice : 

" You are not my emperor ; you are a robber and a pre- 
ender, that is what you are ! " 

Pougatcheff frowned savagely and waved his white hand- 
kerchief. Several Cossacks seized the old captain and 
iragged him towards the gallows. Astride upon the cross- 
)eam could be seen the mutilated Bashkir whom we had 
jxamined the day before. He held in his hand a rope, and a 
ainute afterwards I saw poor Ivan Kouzmitch suspended in 
he air. Then Ivan Ignatitch was brought before Pougatcheff. 

" Take the oath of fealty," said Pougatcheff to him, " to 

iie Emperor Peter Fedorovitch ! " • 
" You are not our emperor," replied Ivan Ignatitch, re- 
eating the words of his captain ; " you, uncle, are a robber 
nd a pretender ! " 
Pougatcheff again waved his handkerchief, and the good 
1 eutenant was soon hanging near his old chief. 
It was now my turn. I looked defiantly at Pougatcheff, 
repared to repeat the answer of my brave comrades, when, 
) my inexpressible astonishment, I perceived, among the 
ibels, Shvabrin, his hair cut close, and wearing a Cossack 
iftan. He stepped up to Pougatcheff and whispered a few 
rords in his ear. 
" Let him be hanged 1 " said Pougatcheff, without even 
oking at me. 

78 poushkin's prose tales. 

The rope was thrown round my neck. I began to repea 
a prayer to myself, expressing sincere repentance for all m 
sins, and imploring God to save all those who were dear t 
me. I was led beneath the gibbet. 

" Don't be afraid, don't be afraid," said my executioners 
wishing sincerely, perhaps, to encourage me. 

Suddenly I heard a cry : 

" Stop, villains ! hold ! " 

The executioners paused. I looked round. SaveHtcl 
was on his knees at the feet of PougatchefF. 

" Oh, my father ! " said my poor servant, " why shoul 
you wish for the death of this noble child ? Let him go 
you will get a good ransom for him ; if you want to mak 
an example of somebody for the sake of terrifying others 
order me to be hanged — an old man ! " 

PougatchefF gave a sign, and I was immediately unboun* 
and set at liberty. 

" Our father pardons you," said the rebels who had charg 
of me. 

I cannot say that at that moment I rejoiced at my de 
liverance, neither will I say that I was sorry for it. M 
feelings were too confused. I was again led before th 
usurper and compelled to kneel down in front of him 
PougatchefF stretched out to me his sinewy hand. 

" Kiss his hand, kiss his hand ! " exclaimed voices oi 
every side of me. 

But I would have preferred the most cruel punishment t( 
such contemptible degradation. 

" My little father, Peter Andreitch," whispered Savelitch 
standing behind me and nudging my elbow, "do not b 
obstinate. What will it cost you ? Spit ^ and kiss th' 
brig pshaw ! kiss his hand ! " 

^ A sign of contempt among Russians and Orientals. 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 79 

I did not move. Pougatcheff withdrew his hand, saying 
with a smile ; 

"His lordship seems bewildered with joy. Lift him 

I was raised to my feet and released. I then stood by to 
observe the continuation of the terrible comedy. 

The inhabitants began to take the oath of allegiance. 
They approached one after another, kissed the crucifix and 
then bowed to the usurper. Then came the turn of the 
soldiers of the garrison. The regimental barber, armed 
with his blunt scissors, cut off their hair. Then, after 
baking their heads, they went and kissed the hand of 
Pougatcheff, who declared them pardoned, and then en- 
rolled them among his followers. 

All thi? lasted for about three hours. At length Pougat- 
heff rose up from his armchair] and descended the steps, 
ccompanied by his chiefs. A white horse, richly capari- 
oned, was led forward to him. Two Cossacks took hold of 
him under the arms and assisted him into the saddle. He 
informed Father Gerasim that he would dine with him. At 
t moment a woman's scream was heard. Some of the 
brigands were dragging Vassilissa Egorovna, with her hair 
dishevelled and her clothes half torn off her body, towards 
the steps. One of them had already arrayed himself in her 
^own. The others were carrying off beds, chests, tea- 
services, linen, and all kinds of furniture. 

' My fathers ! " cried the poor old woman, " have pity 
ipon me and let me go. Kind fathers ! take me to Ivan 

Suddenly she caught sight of the gibbet and recognized 
ler husband. 

*' Villains ! " she cried, almost beside herself; " what have 
^ou done to him ? My Ivan Kouzmitch ! light of my life ! 
Drave soldier heart ! Neither Prussian bayonets nor Turkish 

8o poushkin's prose tales. 

bullets have touched you ; not in honourable fight have yoi 
yielded up your life ; you received your death at the handi 
of a runaway galley-slave ! " 

**Make the old witch hold her tongue!" said Pougat- 

A young Cossack struck her on the head with his sabre, 
and she fell dead at the foot of the steps. Pougatcheff rode 
off; the crowd followed him. 





THE square was deserted. I remained standing in tht 
same place, unable to collect my thoughts, bewildered 
as I was by so many terrible emotions. 

Uncertainty with respect to the fate of Maria Ivanovna 
tortured me more than anything else. Where was she? 
What had become of her? Had she contrived to hide 
herself? Was her place of refuge safe ? 

Filled with these distracting thoughts, I made my way to 
he Commandant's house. It was empty. The chairs, 
ables, and chests were broken, the crockery dashed to 
pieces, and everything in confusion. I ran up the little 
staircase rvhich led to Maria's room, and which I now 
entered for the first time in my life. Her bed had been 
ransacked by thfe robbers ; the wardrobe was broken open 
md plundered ; the small lamp was still burning before the 
mpty image case.^ There was also left a small mirror 
|ianging on the partition wall. . . . Where was the mistress of 
his humble, virginal cell ? A terrible thought passed through 
Tiy mind ] I imagined her in the hands of the robbers. . . . 
S/iy heart sank within me. ... I wept bitterly, most bitterly, 
nd called aloud the name of my beloved. ... At that 
noment I heard a slight noise, and from behind the ward- 
obe appeared Palasha, pale and trembling. 

^ The small wardrobe, with glass doors, in which the sacred images 
e kept, and which forms a domestic altar. 

82 poushkin's prose tales. 

" Ah, Peter Andreitch ! " said she, clasping her hands, 
" What a day ! what horrors ! " 

"And Maria Ivanovna?" I asked impatiently. **What 
has become of Maria Ivanovna ? " 

"The young lady is alive," replied Palasha; "she is 
hiding in the house of Akoulina Pamphilovna." 

" With the priest's wife ! " I exclaimed in alarm. " My 
God ! Pougatcheff is there ! " 

I dashed out of the room, and in the twinkling of an eye 
I was in the street and hurrying off to the clergyman's house, 
without devoting the slightest attention to anything else. 
Shouts, songs, and bursts of laughter resounded from within. 
. . . Pougatcheff was feasting with his companions. Palasha 
had followed me thither. I sent her to call out Akoulina 
Pamphilovna secretly. In about a minute the priest's wife 
came out to me in the vestibule, with an empty bottle in 
her hand. 

" In Heaven's name ! where is Maria Ivanovna ? " I asked 
with indescribable agitation. 

" The dear little dove is lying down on my bed behind 
the partition," replied the priest's wife. "But a terrible 
misfortune had very nearly happened, Peter Andreitch ! 
Thanks be to God, however, everything has passed off 
happily. The villain had just sat down to dine, when the 
poor child uttered a moan ! ... I felt as if I should have 
died. He heard it. * Who is that moaning in your room, 
old woman?' — I bowed myself to the ground, and replied : 
* My niece, Czar ; she has been lying ill for about a fort- 
night.' — * And is your niece young ? ' — * She is young, Czar.' 
— * Show me your niece then, old woman.' My heart sank 
within me, but there was no help for it. * Very well, Czar ; 
but the girl will not have the strength to get up and come 
before your Grace.' — * Never mind, old woman, I will go 
and see her myself.' And the villain went behind the 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 83 

partition and, will you believe it ? — actually drew aside the 
curtain and looked at her with his hawk-like eyes — but 
nothing came of it,— God helped us ! Will you believe it? 
I and the father were prepared for a martyr's death. For- 
tunately, my little dove did not recognize him. Lord God ! 
what have we lived to see ! Poor Ivan Kouzmitch ! who 
would havQ thought it ! . . . And Vassilissa Egorovna ? 
And Ivan Ignatitch? What was he killed for? And how 
came they to spare you ? And what do you think of Shva- 
brin ? He has had his hair cut, and is now feasting inside 
along with them ! He is a very sharp fellow, there is no 
gainsaying that ! When I spoke of my sick niece — will you 
believe it ? — he looked at me as if he would have stabbed 
me ; but he did not betray me. I am thankful to him for 
that, anyway." 

At that moment I heard the drunken shouts of the guests 
and the voice of Father Gerasim. The guests were de- 
manding wine, and the host was calling for his wife. 

" Go back home, Peter Andreitch," said the priest's wife, 
somewhat alarmed ; " I cannot stop to speak to you now ; 
I must go and wait upon the drunken scoundrels. It might 
be unfortunate for you if you fell into their hands. Fare- 
well, Peter Andreitch. What is to be, will be; perhaps 
God will not abandon us ! " 

The priest's wife went back inside the house. Somewhat 
more easy in mind, I returned to my quarters. As I crossed 
the square I saw several Bashkirs assembled round the 
gibbets, engaged in dragging off the boots of those who had 
been hanged. With difficulty I repressed my indignation, 
feeling convinced that if I gave expression to it, it would 
have been perfectly useless. The brigands invaded every 
part of the fortress, and plundered the officers' houses. On 
every side resounded the shouts of the drunken mutineers. 
I reached home. Savelitch met me on the threshold, 



" Thank God ! " he exclaimed when he saw me ; "I was 
beginning to think that the villains had seized you again. 
Ah ! my little father, Peter Andreitch, will you believe it, 
the robbers have plundered us of everything — clothes, linen, 
furniture, plate — they have not left us a single thing. But 
what does it matter ? Thank God ! they have spared your 
life. But, my lord, did you recognize their leader ? " 

** No, I did not recognize him. Who is he then ? " 

" How, my little father ! Have you forgotten that 
drunken scoundrel who swindled you out of the pelisse at 
the inn? A brand new hareskin pelisse j and the beast 
burst the seams in putting it on." 

I was astounded. In truth, the resemblance of Pougat- 
cheff to my guide was very striking. I felt convinced that 
Pougatcheff and he were one and the same person, and 
then I understood why he had spared my life. I could not 
but feel surprised at the strange connection of events — a 
child's pelisse, given to a roving vagrant, had saved me 
from the hangman's noose, and a drunkard, who had passed 
his Hfe in wandering from one inn to another, was now 
besieging fortresses and shaking the empire ! 

"Will you not eat something?" asked Savelitch, still 
faithful to his old habits. " There is nothing in the house ; 
but I will go and search, and get something ready for 

When I was left alone, I began to reflect. What was I 
to do ? To remain in the fortress now that it was in the 
hands of the villain, or to join his band, was unworthy of an 
officer. Duty demanded that I should go wherever my 
services might still be of use to my fatherland in the 
present critical position of its affairs. . . . But love strongly 
urged me to remain near Maria Ivanovna and be her pro- 
tector and defender. Although I foresaw a speedy and 
inevitable change in the course of affairs, yet I could not 


help trembling when I thought of the danger of her situa- 

My reflections were interrupted by the arrival of one of 
the Cossacks, who came to inform me that " the great Czar 
required me to appear before him." 

" Where is he ? " I asked, preparing to obey. 

"In the Commandant's house," replied the Cossack. 
" After dinner our father took a bath, but at present he is 
resting. Ah ! your Excellency, it is very evident that he is 
a distinguished person ; at dinner he deigned to eat two 
roasted sucking pigs, then he entered the bath, where the 
water was so hot that even Tarass Kourotchkin could not 
bear it ; he had to give the besom to Tomka Bikbaieff, and 
only came to himself through having cold water poured 
over him. There is no denying it; all his ways are 
majestic. . . . And I was told that in the bath he showed 
his Czar's signs upon his breast : on one side a two-headed 
eagle as large as a five-copeck piece, and on the other his 
own likeness." 

I did not consider it necessary to contradict the Cossack's 
statement, and I accompanied him to the Commandant's 
house, trying to imagine beforehand what kind of a recep- 
tion I should meet with from PougatchefF, and endeavouring 
to guess how it would end. The reader will easily under- 
stand that I did not by any means feel easy within myself. 

It was beginning to get dark when I reached the Com- 
mandant's house. The gibbet, with its victims, loomed 
black and terrible before me. The body of the poor Com- 
mandant's wife still lay at the bottom of the steps, near 
which two Cossacks stood on guard. The Cossack who 
accompanied me went in to announce me, and, returning 
almost immediately, conducted me into the room where, 
the evening before, I had taken a tender farewell of Maria 

S6 poushkin's prose tales. 

An unusual spectacle presented itself to my gaze. At s 
lable, covered with a cloth and loaded with bottles anc 
glasses, sat Pougatcheff and some half-a-score of Cossaci 
chiefs, in coloured caps and shirts, heated with wine, with 
flushed faces and flashing eyes. I did not see among then: 
Shvabrin and his fellow traitor, the orderly. 

" Ah ! your Excellency ! " said Pougatchefl", seeing me, 
" Welcome ; honour to you and a place at our banquet." 

The guests moved closer together. I sat down silently 
at the end of the table. My neighbour, a young Cossack, 
tall and handsome, poured out for me a glass of wine, 
which, however, I did not touch. I began to observe the 
company with curiosity. Pougatcheflf occupied the seat ol 
honour, his elbows resting on the table, and his broad fist 
propped under his black beard. His features, regular and 
sufficiently agreeable, had nothing fierce about them. He 
frequently turned to speak to a man of about fifty years ol 
age, addressing him sometimes as Count, sometimes as 
Timofeitch, sometimes as uncle. All those present treated 
each other as comrades, and did not show any particular 
respect for their leader. The conversation was upon the 
subject of the assault of the morning, of the success of 
the revolt, and of their future operations. Each one 
boasted of what he had done, expressed his opinion, and 
fearlessly contradicted Pougatcheff". And in this strange 
council of war it was resolved to march upon Orenburg ; a 
bold movement, and which was to be very nearly crowned 
with success ! The march was fixed for the following 

"Now, lads," said Pougatcheff, "before we retire to 
rest, let us have my favourite song. Choumakoff, 

My neighbour sang, in a shrill voice, the following 
melancholy peasants' song, and all joined in the chorus : 


** Stir not, mother, green forest of oak, 
Disturb me not in my meditation ; 
For to-morrow before the court I must go, 
Before the stern judge, before the Czar himself. 
The great Lord Czar will begin to question me : 

* Tell me, young man, tell me, thou peasant's son, 

With whom have you stolen, with whom have you robbed ? 
Did you have many companions with you ? * 

* I will tell you, true-believing Czar, 
The whole truth I will confess to you. 
My companions were four in number : 
My first companion was the dark night, 
My second companion was a steel knife, 
My third companion was my good horse. 
My fourth companion was my taut bow, 
My messengers were my tempered arrows. ' 
Then speaks my hope, the true-believing Czar : 

* Well done ! my lad, brave peasant's son ; 
You knew how to steal, you knew how to reply : 
Therefore, my lad, I will make you a present 
Of a very high structure in the midst of a field — 
Of two upright posts with a cross-beam above.' " 

It is impossible to describe the effect produced upon me 
by this popular gallows song, trolled out by men destined for 
the gallows. Their ferocious countenances, their sonorous 
voices, and the melancholy expression which they imparted 
to the words, which in themselves were not very expressive, 
filled me with a sort of poetical terror. 

The guests drank another glass, then rose from the table 
and took leave of Pougatcheff. 

I wanted to follow them, but Pougatcheff said to me ; 

" Sit down ; I want to speak to you." 

We remained face to face. 

For some moments we both continued silent. Pougat- 
cheff looked at me fixedly, every now and then winking his 
left eye with a curious expression of craftiness and drollery. 
At last he burst out laughing, and with such unfeigned 


merriment, that I, too, looking at him, began to laugh, 
without knowing why. 

** Well, your lordship," he said to me, ** confess now, you 
were in a terrible fright when my fellows put the rope round 
your neck. I do not believe that the sky appeared bigger 
than a sheepskin to you just then . . . You would have 
been strung up to the crossbeam if it had not been for your 
servant. I knew the old fellow at once. Well, would your 
lordship have thought that the man who conducted you to 
the inn, was the great Czar himself ? " 

Here he assumed an air of mystery and importance. 

"You have been guilty of a serious offence against me," 
continued he, "but I pardoned you on account of your 
virtue, and because you rendered me a service when I was 
compelled to hide myself from my enemies. But you will 
see something very different presently ! You will see how I 
will reward you when I enter into possession of my king- 
dom ! Will you promise to serve me with zeal ? " 

The rascal's question, and his insolence, appeared to me 
so amusing, that I could not help smiUng. 

"Why do you smile?" he asked, frowning. "Perhaps 
you do not believe that I am the great Czar ? Is that so ? — 
answer plainly." 

I became confused. To acknowledge a vagabond as 
emperor was quite out of the question ; to do so seemed to 
me unpardonable cowardice. To tell him to his face that 
he was an impostor was to expose myself to certain death, 
and that which I was prepared to say beneath the gibbet 
before the eyes of the crowd, in the first outburst of my 
indignation, appeared to me now a useless boast. I hesi- 
tated. In gloomy silence Pougatcheff awaited my reply. 
At last (and even now I remember that moment with self- 
satisfaction) the sentiment of duty triumphed over my 
human weakness. I replied to Pougatcheff : 


" Listen, I will tell you the whole truth. Judge yourself: 
can I acknowledge you as emperor? You, as a sensible 
man, would know that it would not be saying what I really 

" Who am I, then, in your opinion ? " 

"God only knows; but whoever you may be, you are 
playing a dangerous game." 

Pougatcheff threw a rapid glance at me. 

" Then you do not believe," said he, " that I am the 
Emperor Peter ? Well, be it so. But is not success the 
reward of the bold ? Did not Grishka Otrepieff ^ reign in 
former days? Think of me what you please, but do not 
leave me. What does it matter to you one way or the 
other ? Whoever is pope is father. Serve me faithfully and 
truly, and I will make you a field-marshal and a prince. 
What do you say ? " 

" No," I replied with firmness. " I am by birth a noble- 
man ; I have taken the oath of fealty to the empress : I 
cannot serve you. If you really wish me well, send me 
back to Orenburg." 

Pougatcheff reflected. 

" But if I let you go," said he, " will you at least promise 
not to serve against me ? " 

" How can I promise you that?" I replied. "You your- 
self know that it does not depend upon my own will. If I 

* The first false Demetrius, the Perkin Warbeck of Russia. The 
real Demetrius was the son of Ivan the Terrible (Ivan IV.), and is 
generally believed to have been assassinated by order of Boris Godunoff, 
a nobleman of Tartar origin, who was afterwards elected Czar. 
OtrepiefTs story was that his physician had pretended to comply with 
the orders of Boris, but had substituted the son of a serf for him. 
Being supported in his claims by the Poles, the pretender succeeded in 
gaining the throne, but his partiality for everything Polish aroused the 
national jealousy of the Russians, and he was slain by the infuriated 
populace of Moscow, after a brief reign of one year. 


am ordered to march against you, I must go — there is no 
help for it. You yourself are now a chief; you demand 
obedience from your followers. How would it seem, if I 
refused to serve when my services were needed ? My life is 
in your hands : if you set me free, I will thank you ; if you 
put me to death, God will be your judge ; but I have told 
you the truth." 

My frankness struck Pougatcheff. 

*'Be it so," said he, slapping me upon the shoulder. 
"One should either punish completely or pardon com- 
pletely. Go then where you Hke, and do what you Hke. 
Come to-morrow to say good-bye to me, and now go to 
bed. I feel very drowsy myself." 

I left Pougatcheff and went out into the street. The 
night was calm and cold. The moon and stars were shining 
brightly, lighting up the square and the gibbet. In the 
fortress all was dark and still. Only in the tavern was a 
light visible, where could be heard the noise of late revellers. 
I glanced at the pope's house. The shutters and doors 
were closed. Everything seemed quiet within. 

I made my way to my own quarters and found Savelitch 
grieving about my absence. The news of my being set at 
liberty filled him with unutterable joy. 

" Thanks be to Thee, Almighty God ! " said he, making 
the sign of the cross. "At daybreak to-morrow we will 
leave the fortress and go wherever God will direct us. I 
have prepared something for you ; eat it, my little father, 
and then rest yourself till the morning, as if you were in the 
bosom of Christ." 

I followed his advice and, having eaten with a good 
appetite, I fell asleep upon the bare floor, worn out both in 
body and mind. 




EARLY next morning I was awakened by the drum. 
I went to the place of assembly. There Pougatcheff s 
followers were already drawn up round the gibbet, where 
the victims of the day before were still hanging. The 
Cossacks were on horseback, the soldiers were under arms. 
Flags were waving. Several cannon, among which I re- 
cognized our own, were mounted on travelling gun- 
carriages. All the inhabitants were gathered together there, 
awaiting the usurper. Before the steps of the Comman- 
dant's house a Cossack stood holding by the bridle a 
magnificent white horse of Kirghis breed. I looked about 
for the corpse of the Commandant's wife. It had been 
pushed a little on one side and covered with a mat. At 
length Pougatcheff came out of the house. The crowd 
took off their caps. Pougatcheff stood still upon the steps 
and greeted his followers. One of the chiefs gave him a 
bag filled with copper coins, and he began to scatter them 
by handfuls. The crowd commenced scrambling for them 
with eager cries, and there was no lack of pushing and 
scuffling in the attempts to get possession of them. Pougat- 
cheff's chief followers assembled round him. Among them 
stood Shvabrin. Our eyes met ; in mine he could read con- 
tempt, and he turned away with an expression of genuine 
hate and affected scorn. Pougatcheff, seeing me among 
the crowd, nodded his head to me and called me to him. 

92 poushkin's prose tales. 

" Listen," said he to me, " set off at once for Orenburg 
and tell the governor and all the generals from me, that 
they may expect me in about a week. Advise them to 
receive me with filial love and submission ; otherwise they 
shall not escape a terrible punishment. A pleasant journey, 
your lordship ! " 

Then turning round to the crowd and pointing to Shva- 
brin, he said : 

" There, children, is your new Commandant. Obey him 
in everything ; he is answerable to me for you and for the 

I heard these words with alarm : Shvabrin being made 
governor of the fortress, Maria Ivanovna remained in his 
power ! Great God ! what would become of her ! 

Pougatcheff descended the steps. His horse was brought 
to him. He vaulted nimbly into the saddle, without waiting 
for the Cossacks, who were going to help him to mount. 

At that moment I saw my Savelitch emerge from the 
midst of the crowd ; he approached Pougatcheff and gave 
him a sheet of paper. I could not imagine what was the 
meaning of this proceeding on his part. 

" What is this ? " asked Pougatcheff, with an air of im- 

" Read it, then you will see," replied Savelitch. Pougat- 
cheff took the paper and examined it for a long time with a 
consequential look. 

" Why do you write so illegibly ? " said he at last. " Our 
lucid eyes ^ cannot decipher a word. Where is my chief 

A young man, in the uniform of a corporal, immediately 
ran up to Pougatcheff. 

^ An allusion to the customaiy form of speech on presenting a petition 
to the Czar: "I strike the earth with my forehead, and present my 
petition to your lucid eyes." 


" Read it aloud," said the usurper, giving him the paper. 

I was exceedingly curious to know what my follower 
could have written to Pougatcheff about. The chief secre- 
tary, in a loud voice, began to spell out as follows : 

"Two dressing-gowns, one of linen and one of striped 
silk, six roubles." 

" What does this mean ? " said Pougatcheff, frowning. 

'* Order him to read on," replied Savelitch coolly. 

The chief secretary continued : 

" One uniform coat of fine green cloth, seven roubles. 

** One pair of white cloth breeches, five roubles. 

" Twelve Holland linen shirts with ruffles, ten roubles. 

" A chest and tea-service, two roubles and a half. . . ." 

"What is all this nonsense?" exclaimed Pougatcheff. 
"What are these chests and breeches with ruffles to do with 

Savelitch cleared his throat and began to explain. 

" This, my father, you will please to understand is a list 
of my master's goods that have been stolen by those 
scoundrels " 

" What scoundrels ? " said Pougatcheff, threateningly. 

" I beg your pardon, that was a slip on my part," replied 
Savelitch. "They were not scoundrels, but your fellows, 
who have rummaged and plundered everything. Do not be 
angry: the horse has got four legs, and yet he stumbles. 
Order him to read to the end." 

" Read on to the end," said Pougatcheff. 

The secretary continued : 

" One chintz counterpane, another of taffety quilted with 
cotton wool, four roubles. 

" A fox-skin pelisse, covered with red flannel, forty roubles. 

"Likewise a hare-skin morning-gown, presented to your 
Grace at the inn on the steppe, fifteen roubles." 

"What's that'!" exclaimed Pougatcheff, his eyes flashing fire. 

94 poushkin's prose tales. 

I confess that I began to feel alarmed for my pooi 
servant. He was about to enter again into explanations, 
but Pougatcheif interrupted him. 

" How dare you pester me with such nonsense ! " he 
cried, snatching the paper out of the secretary's hands and 
flinging it in Savelitch's face. " Stupid old man ! You have 
been robbed ; what a misfortune ! Why, old greybeard, 
you ought to be eternally praying to God for me and my 
lads, that you and your master are not hanging yonder along 
with the other traitors to me. ... A hare-skin morning- 
gown ! Do you know that I could order you to be flayed 
alive and have your skin made into a morning-gown ? " 

" As you please," rephed Savelitch ; " but I am not a free 
man, and must be answerable for my lord's goods." 

Pougatcheff was evidently in a magnanimous humour. 
He turned round and rode off without saying another word. 
Shvabrin and the chiefs followed him. The troops marched 
out of the fortress in order. The crowd pressed forward to 
accompany Pougatcheff. I remained in the square alone 
with Savelitch. My servant held in his hand the Hst of my 
things and stood looking at it with an air of deep regret. 

Seeing me on such good terms with Pougatcheff, he 
thought that he might take advantage of the circumstance ; 
but his sage scheme did not succeed. I was on the point of 
scolding him for his misplaced zeal, but I could not restrain 
myself from laughing. 

" Laugh away, my lord," replied Savelitch : " laugh away ; 
but when the time comes for you to procure a new outfit, we 
shall see if you will laugh then." 

I hastened to the priest's house to see Maria Ivanovna. 
The priest's wife met me with sad news. During the night 
Maria Ivanovna had been seized with a violent attack of 
fever. She lay unconscious and in a delirium. The priest's 
wife conducted me into her room. I softly approached her 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 95 

bed. The change in her face startled me. She did not 
recognize me. For a long time I stood beside her without 
paying any heed either to Father Gerasim or to his good 
wife, who endeavoured to console me. Gloomy thoughts 
took possession of me. The condition of the poor defence- 
less orphan, left alone in the midst of the lawless rebels, as 
well as my own powerlessness, terrified me. But it was the 
thought of Shvabrin more than anything else that filled my 
imagination with alarm. Invested with power by the usurper, 
and entrusted with the command of the fortress, in which 
the unhappy girl — the innocent object of his hatred — 
remained, he was capable of any villainous act. What was 
I to do ? How should I help her ? How could I rescue her 
out of the hands of the brigands? There remained only 
one way. I resolved to set out immediately for Orenburg, in 
order to hasten the deliverance of Bailogorsk, and, as far as 
possible, to co-operate in the undertaking. I took leave of 
the priest and of Akoulina Pamphilovna, recommending to 
their care her whom I already considered as my wife. I 
seized the hand of the poor girl and kissed it, bedewing it 
with my tears. 

" Farewell," said the pope's wife to me, accompanying me 
to the door ; " farewell, Peter Andreitch. Perhaps we shall 
see each other again in happier times. Do not forget us, 
and write to us often. Poor Maria Ivanovna has nobody 
now, except you, to console and protect her." 

On reaching the square, I stopped for a moment and 
looked at the gibbet, then, bowing my head before it, I 
quitted the fortress and took the road to Orenburg, accom- 
panied by Savelitch, who had not left my side. 

I was walking on, occupied with my reflections, when 
suddenly I heard behind me the trampling of horses' feet. 
Looking round, I saw, galloping out of the fortress, a 
Cossack, holding a Bashkir horse by the rein and making 

96 poushkin's prose tales. 

signs to me from afar. I stopped and soon recognized oui 
orderly. Galloping up to us, he dismounted from his own 
horse, and giving me the rein of the other, said : 

** Your lordship ! our father sends you a horse, and a 
pelisse from his own shoulders." (To the saddle was 
attached a sheepskin pelisse.) " Moreover," continued the ; 
orderly with some hesitation, " he sends you — haif-a- rouble 
— ^but I have lost it on the road ; be generous and pardon ^ 

Savelitch eyed him askance and growled out : 

"You lost it on the road ! What is that chinking in your 
pocket, then, you shameless rascal ! " 

"What is that chinking in my pocket?" replied the 
orderly, without being in the least confused. " God be with 
you, old man ! It is a horse's bit, and not half-a-rouble." | 

"Very well," said I, putting an end to the dispute. 
" Give my thanks to him who sent you ; and as you go 
back, try and find the lost half-rouble and keep it for drink- 

"Many thanks, your lordship," replied he, turning his 
horse round ; " I will pray to God for you without ceasing." 

With these words he galloped back again, holding one 
hand to his pocket, and in about a minute he was hidden 
from sight. 

I put on the pelisse and mounted the horse, taking 
Savelitch up behind me. 

" Now do you see, my lord," said the old man, " that I 
did not give the petition to the rascal in vain ? The robber 
felt ashamed of himself. Although this lean-looking Bash- 
kir jade and this sheepskin pelisse are not worth half of 
what the rascals stole from us, and what you chose to give 
him yourself, they may yet be of some use to us ; from a 
vicious dog, even a tuft of hair." 




ON approaching Orenburg, we saw a crowd of convicts, 
with shaven heads, and with faces disfigured by the 
hangman's pincers. They were at work on the fortifications, 
under the direction of the soldiers of the garrison. Some 
were carrying away in wheel -barrows the earth and refuse 
which filled the moat, others with shovels were digging up 
the ground; on the rampart the masons were carrying 
stones and repairing the walls. The sentinels stopped us at 
the gate and demanded our passports. As soon as the 
ergeant heard that I came from Bailogorsk, he took me 
straight to the General's house. 

I found him in the garden. He was inspecting the apple- 
trees, which the autumn winds had stripped of their leaves, 
nd, with the help of an old gardener, was carefully covering 
them with straw. His face expressed tranquillity, health, 
md good-nature. He was much pleased to see me, and 
began questioning me about the terrible events of which I 
tiad been an eye-witness. I related everything to him. 
The old man listened to me with attention, and continued 
n the meantime to lop off the dry twigs. 

** Poor Mironoff ! " said he, when I had finished my sad 
itory; "I feel very sorry for him, he was a good officer; 
d Madame Mironoff was a good woman, — how clever she 
was at pickling mushrooms ! And what has become of Masha, 
he Captain's daughter ? " 


I replied that she was still at the fortress in the hands o1 
the pope and his wife. 

" That is bad, very bad. Nobody can place any depen- 
dence upon the discipline of robbers. What will become oi 
the poor girl?" 

I replied that the fortress of Bailogorsk was not far off 
and that, without doubt, his Excellency would not delay ir 
sending thither a detachment of soldiers to deliver the pool 

The General shook his head dubiously. 

*' We shall see, we shall see," said he, " we have plentj 
of time to talk about that. Do me the pleasure of taking a 
cup of tea with me : a council of war is to be held at mj 
house this evening. You may be able to give us some 
trustworthy information concerning this rascal Pougatchefi 
and his army. And now go and rest yourself for a little 

I went to the quarter assigned to me, where Savelitcli 
had already installed himself, and where I awaited with 
impatience the appointed time. The reader will easilj 
imagine that I did not fail to make my appearance at the 
council which was to have such an influence upon my fate. 
At the appointed hour I repaired to the General's house. 

I found with him one of the civil officials of the town, 
the director of the custom-house, if I remember rightly, a 
stout, red-faced old man in a silk coat. He began tc 
question me about the fate of Ivan Kouzmitch, whom he 
called his gossip, and frequently interrupted my discourse 
with additional questions and moral observations, which, ii 
they did not prove him to be a man well versed in military 
matters, showed at least that he possessed sagacity and 
common sense. In the meantime the other persons who 
had been invited to the council had assembled. When 
they were all seated, and a cup of tea had been handed 


round to each, the General entered into a clear and detailed 
account of the business in question. 

"And now, gentlemen," continued he, "we must decide 
in what way we are to act against the rebels : offensively or 
defensively? Each of these methods has its advantages 
and disadvantages. Offensive warfare holds out a greater 
prospect of a quicker extermination of the enemy ; defen- 
sive action is safer and less dangerous. . . . Therefore let 
us commence by putting the question to the vote in legal 
order, that is, beginning with the youngest in rank. En- 
sign," continued he, turning to me, "will you please favour 
us with your opinion ? " 

I rose, and after having described, in a few words, Pou- 
gatcheff and his followers, I expressed my firm opinion that 
the usurper was not in a position to withstand disciplined 

My opinion was received by the civil officials with evident 
dissatisfaction. They saw in it only the rashness and temerity 
of a young man. There arose a murmur, and I distinctly 
heard the word "greenhorn" pronounced in a whisper. The 
General turned to me and said with a smile : 

"Ensign, the first voices in councils of war are generally 
in favour of adopting offensive measures. We will now 
continue and hear what others have to say. Mr. Coun- 
sellor of the College, tell us your opinion." 

The little old man in the silk coat hastily swallowed his 
:hird cup of tea, into which he had poured some rum, and 
;hen replied : 

" I think, your Excellency, that we ought to act neither 
ffensively nor defensively." 

" How, Sir Counsellor?" replied the astonished General. 
Tactics present no other methods of action ; offensive 
ction or defensive. . . ." 

" Your Excellency, act diplomatically.* 


loo poushkin's prose tales. 

" Ah ! your idea is a very sensible one. Diplomatic 
action is allowed by the laws of tactics, and we will profit by 
your advice. We might offer for the head of the rascal . . . 
seventy or even a hundred roubles . . . out of the secret 
funds. . . ." 

"And then," interrupted the Director of the Customs, 
"may I become a Kirghis ram, and not a College Counsellor, 
if these robbers do not deliver up to us their leader, bound 
hand and foot." 

" We will think about it, and speak of it again," replied 
the General. " But, in any case, we must take military ! 
precautions. Gentlemen, give your votes in regular order.** j 

The opinions of all were contrary to mine. All the civil 
officials expatiated upon the untrustworthiness of the troops, 
the uncertainty of success, the necessity of being cautious, 
and the like. All agreed that it was more prudent to 
remain behind the stone walls of the fortress under the i 
protection of the cannon, than to try the fortune of arms in 
the open field. At length the General, having heard all 
their opinions, shook the ashes from his pipe and spoke as 
follows : 

" Gentlemen, I must declare to you that, for my part, I 
am entirely of the same opinion as the ensign ; because this 
opinion is founded upon sound rules of tactics, which nearly 
always give the preference to offensive action rather than to 

Then he paused and began to fill his pipe. My vanity 
triumphed. I cast a proud glance at the civil officials, who 
were whispering among themselves with looks of displeasure 
and uneasiness. w 

"But, gentlemen," continued the General, heaving a deep 
sigh, and emitting at the same time a thick cloud of tobacco 
smoke, "I dare not take upon myself such a great responsi- 
bility, when it is a question of the safety of the provinces 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. lO' 

confided to me by Her Imperial Majesty; my Most Gracioiis 
Sovereign. Therefore it is that I fall in With the view's ot 
the majority, who have decided that it is safer and more 
prudent to await the siege inside the town, and to repel the 
attack of the enemy by the use of artillery and — if possible 
— by sallies." 

The officials in their turn now glanced at me ironically. 
The council separated. I could not but deplore the weak- 
ness of this estimable soldier, who, contrary to his own 
conviction, resolved to follow the advice of ignorant and 
inexperienced persons. 

Some days after this memorable council we heard that 
Pougatcheff, faithful to his promise, was marching on Oren- 
burg. From the lofty walls of the town I observed the army 
of the rebels. It seemed to me that their numbers had 
increased since the last assault, of which I had been a 
witness. They had with them also some pieces of artillery 
which had been taken by Pougatcheff from the small 
fortresses that had been conquered by him. Remembering 
the decision of the council, I foresaw a long incarceration 
within the walls of Orenburg, and I was almost ready to 
weep with vexation. 

I do not intend to describe the siege of Orenburg, which 
belongs to history and not to family memoirs. I will merely 
observe that this siege, through want of caution on the part 
of the local authorities, was a disastrous one for the inhabi- 
tants, who had to endure hunger and every possible priva- 
tion. It can easily be imagined that life in Orenburg was 
almost unbearable. All awaited in melancholy anxiety the 
decision of fate ; all complained of the famine, which was 
really terrible. The inhabitants became accustomed to the 
cannon-balls falling upon their houses ; even Pougatcheff's 
assaults no longer produced any excitement. I was dying 
of ennui. Time wore on. I received no letters from 


Bailogorsk; All the roads were cut off. Separation from 
Maria Ivanovna became insupportable to me. Uncertainty 
with respect to her fate tortured me. My only diversion 
consisted in making excursions outside the city. Thanks 
to the kindness of Pougatcheff, I had a good horse, with 
which I shared my scanty allowance of food, and upon 
whose back I used to ride out daily beyond the walls and 
open fire upon Pougatcheff 's partisans. In these skirmishes 
the advantage was generally on the side of the rebels, who 
had plenty to eat and drink, and possessed good horses. 
Our miserable cavalry were unable to cope with them. 
Sometimes our famished infantry made a sally ; but the 
depth of the snow prevented their operations being success- 
ful against the flying cavalry of the enemy. The artillery 
thundered in vain from the summit of the ramparts, and 
had it been in the field, it could not have advanced on 
account of our emaciated horses. Such was our style of 
warfare ! And this was what the civil officials of Orenburg 
called prudence and foresight ! 

One day, when we had succeeded in dispersing and 
driving off a tolerably large body of the enemy, I came up 
with a Cossack who had remained behind his companions, 
and I was just about to strike him with my Turkish sabre, 
when he suddenly took off his cap and cried out : 

" Good day, Peter Andreitch ; how do you do ? " 

I looked at him and recognized our orderly. I cannot 
say how delighted I was to see him. 

" Good day, Maximitch," said I to him. " How long is 
it since you left Bailogorsk ? " 

" Not long, Peter Andreitch ; I only returned from there 
yesterday. I have a letter for you." 

"Where is it?" cried I, perfectly beside myself with 

"I have it here," replied Maximitch, placing his hand 


upon his bosom. " I promised Palasha that I would give 
it to you somehow." 

He then gave me a folded paper and immediately galloped 
off. I opened it and, deeply agitated, read the following 
lines : 

" It has pleased God to deprive me suddenly of both 
father and mother : I have now on earth neither a relation 
nor a protector. I therefore turn to you, because I know 
that you have always wished me well, and that you are ever 
ready to help others. I pray to God that this letter may 
reach you in some way ! Maximitch has promised to give 
it to you. Palasha has also heard from Maximitch that he 
has frequently seen you from a distance in the sorties, and 
that you do not take the least care of yourself, not thinking 
about those who pray to God for you in tears. I was ill a 
long time, and, when I recovered, Alexei Ivanovitch, who 
commands here in place of my deceased father, compelled 
Father Gerasim to deliver me up to him, threatening him 
with Pougatcheff's anger if he refused. I live in our house 
which is guarded by a sentry. Alexei Ivanovitch wants to 
compel me to marry him. He says that he saved my hfe 
because he did not reveal the deception practised by Akou- 
lina Pamphilovna, who told the rebels that I was her niece. 
But I would rather die than become the wife of such a man 
as Alexei Ivanovitch. He treats me very cruelly, and 
threatens that if I do not change my mind and agree to his 
proposal, he will conduct me to the rebels' camp, where I 
shall suffer the same fate as Elizabeth Kharloff.^ I have 
begged Alexei Ivanovitch to give me time to reflect. He 
has consented to give me three days longer, and if at the 
end of that time I do not agree to become his wife, he will 

^ A Commandant's daughter, whom Pougatcheff outraged and then 
put to death. 

I04 poushkin's prose tales. 

show me no further mercy. Oh, Peter Andreitch ! you are 
my only protector ; save a poor helpless girl ! Implore the 
General and all the commanders to send us help as soon as 
possible, and come yourself if you can. 

" I remain your poor obedient orphan, 

" Maria Mironoff." 

The reading of this letter almost drove me out of my 
mind. I galloped back to the town, spurring my poor 
horse without mercy. On the way I turned over in my 
mind one plan and another for the rescue of the poor 
girl, but I could not come to any definite conclusion. 
On reaching the town I immediately repaired to the 
General's, and presented myself before him without the least 

He was walking up and down the room, smoking his 
meerschaum pipe. On seeing me he stopped. Probably 
he was struck by my appearance, for he anxiously inquired 
the reason of my hasty visit. 

"Your Excellency," said I to him, **I come to you as I 
would to my own father : for Heaven's sake, do not refuse 
my request; the happiness of my whole life depends 
upon it I " 

"What is the matter?" asked the astonished old soldier. 
" What can I do for you ? Speak ! " 

" Your Excellency, allow me to take a battalion of soldiers 
and a company of Cossacks to recapture the fortress of 

The General looked at me earnestly, imagining, with- 
out doubt, that I had taken leave of my senses — and, for 
the matter of that, he was not very far out in his supposi- 

" How ? — what ? Recapture the fortress of Bailogorsk ? " 
said he at last. 


"I will answer for the success of the undertaking," I 
replied with ardour ; " only let me go." 

" No, young man," said he, shaking his head. " At such 
a great distance the enemy would easily cut off your com- 
munication with the principal strategical point, and gain a 
complete victory over you. Communication being cut 
off. . . ." 

I became alarmed when I perceived that he was about 
to enter upon a military dissertation, and I hastened to 
interrupt him. 

"The daughter of Captain Mironoff has written a letter 
to me," I said to him ; " she asks for help : Shvabrin wants 
to compel her to become his wife." 

" Indeed ! Oh, this Shvabrin is a great rascal, and if he 
should fall into my hands I will order him to be tried 
within twenty-four hours, and we will have him shot on the 
parapet of the fortress. But in the meantime we must have 

** Have patience ! " I cried, perfectly beside myself. 
"But in the meantime he will force Maria Ivanovna to 
become his wife ! " 

" Oh ! " exclaimed the General. " But even that would be 
no great misfortune for her. It would be better for her to 
become the wife of Shvabrin, he would then take her under 
his protection ; and when we have shot him we will soon 
find a sweetheart for her, please God. Pretty widows do 
not remain single long ; I mean that a widow finds a 
husband much quicker than a spinster." 

" I would rather die," said I in a passion, " than resign 
her to Shvabrin." 

" Oh, oh ! " said the old man, ** now I understand. You 
are evidently in love with Maria Ivanovna, and that alters 
the case altogether. Poor fellow ! But, for all that, I 
cannot give you a battalion of soldiers and fifty Cossacks. 

io6 poushkin's prose tales. 

Such an expedition would be the height of folly, and I 
cannot take the responsibility of it upon myself." 

I cast down my head; despair took possession of me. 
Suddenly a thought flashed through my mind : what it was, 
the reader will discover in the following chapter, as the old 
romance writers used to say. 




I LEFT the General and hastened to my own quarters. 
Savelitch received me with his usual admonitions. 

" What pleasure do you find, my lord, in fighting against 
drunken robbers ? Is that the kind of occupation for a 
nobleman ? All hours are not alike, and you will sacrifice 
your life for nothing. It would be all well and good if you 
were fighting against the Turks or the Swedes, but it is a 
shame to mention the name of the enemy that you are 
dealing with now." 

I interrupted him in his speech by the question : 

" How much money have I left ? " 

**You have a tolerably good sum still left," he replied, 
with a look of satisfaction. " In spite of their searching 
and rummaging, I succeeded in hiding it from the robbers." 

So saying, he drew from his pocket a long knitted purse, 
filled with silver pieces. 

" Well, Savelitch," said I to him, " give me half of what 
you have, and keep the rest yourself. I am going to 
Fortress Bailogorsk." 

" My Httle father, Peter Andreitch ! " said my good old 
servant in a trembling voice ; " do not tempt God ! How 
can you travel at the present time, when none of the roads 
are free from the robbers? Have compassion upon your 
parents, if you have no pity for yourself. Where do you 
want to go? And why? Wait a little while. The troops 


will soon be here and will quickly make short work of the 
robbers. Then you may go in whatever direction you like." 

But my resolution was not to be shaken. 

" It is too late to reflect," I said to the old man. " I 
must go, I cannot do otherwise than go. Do not grieve, 
Savelitch : God is merciful, perhaps we may see each other 
again. Have no scruples about spending the money, and 
don't be sparing of it. Buy whatever you require, even 
though' you have to pay three times the value of it. I give 
this money to you. If in three days I do not return " 

** What are you talking about, my lord ? " said Savelitch, 
interrupting me. " Do you think that I could let you go 
alone ? Do not imagine anything of the kind. If you have 
resolved to go, I will accompany you, even though it be on 
foot ; I will not leave you. The idea of my sitting down 
behind a stone wall without you ! Do you think then that 
I have gone out of my mind ? Do as you please, my lord, 
but I will not leave you." 

I knew that it was useless to dispute with Savelitch, and 
I allowed him to prepare for the journey. In half an hour 
I was seated upon the back of my good horse, while Save- 
litch was mounted upon a lean and limping jade, which one 
of the inhabitants of the town had given to him for nothing, 
not having the means to keep it any longer. We reached 
the gates of the town ; the sentinels allowed us to pass, and 
we left Orenburg behind us. 

It was beginning to grow dark. My road led past the 
village of Berd, one of Pougatcheff's haunts. The way was 
covered with snow, but over the whole of the steppe could 
be seen the footprints of horses, renewed every day. I rode 
forward at a quick trot. Savelitch could hardly keep pace 
with me, and kept calling out : 

" Not so fast, my lord, for Heaven's sake, not so fast ! My 
accursed hack cannot keep up with your long-legged devil. 


Where are you off to in such a hurry? It would be all very 
well if we were going to a feast, but we are more likely going 
to run our heads into a noose. . . . Peter Andreitch . . . 
little father . . . Peter Andreitch ! Lord God ! the child 
is rushing to destruction ! " 

We soon caught sight of the fires of Berd glimmering in 
the distance. We approached some ravines, which served 
as natural defences to the hamlet. Savelitch still followed 
me, and did not cease to utter his plaintive entreaties. I 
hoped to be able to ride round the village without being 
observed, when suddenly I perceived through the darkness, 
straight in- front of me, five peasants armed with clubs ; it 
was the advanced guard of Pougatcheff' s camp. They 
challenged us. Not knowing the password, I wanted to 
ride on without saying anything; but they immediately 
surrounded me, and one of them seized hold of my horse's 
bridle. I drew my sword and struck the peasant on the 
head. His cap saved him, but he staggered and let the 
reins fall from his hand. The others grew frightened and 
took to their heels; I seized the opportunity, and, setting 
spurs to my horse, I galloped oif. 

The increasing darkness of the night might have saved 
me from further dangers, but, turning round all at once, I 
perceived that Savelitch was no longer with me. The pooi 
old man, with his lame horse, had not been able to get 
clear of the robbers. What was to be done ? After waiting a 
few minutes for him, and feeling convinced that he had been 
stopped, I turned my horse round to hasten to his assistance. 

Approaching the ravine, I heard in the distance confused 
cries, and the voice of my Savelitch. I quickened my pace, 
and soon found myself in the midst of the peasants who had 
stopped me a few minutes before. Savelitch was among 
them. With loud shouts they threw themselves upon me 
and dragged me from my horse in a twinkling. One of 



them, apparently the leader of the band, informed us that 
he was going to conduct us immediately before the Czar. 
"And our father," added he, "will decide whether you shall 
be hanged immediately or wait till daylight." 

I offered no resistance ; SaveUtch followed my example, 
and the sentinels led us away in triumph. 

We crossed the ravine and entered the village. In all the 
huts fires were burning. Noise and shouts resounded on 
every side. In the streets I met a large number of people ; 
but nobody observed us in the darkness, and no one re- 
cognized in me an officer from Orenburg. We were con- 
ducted straight to a cottage which stood at the corner where 
two streets met. Before the door stood several wine-casks 
and two pieces of artillery. 

"This is the palace," said one of the peasants; "we will 1 
announce you at once." 

He entered the cottage. I glanced at Savelitch : the old 
man was making the sign of the cross and muttering his 
prayers to himself, 

I waited a long time; at last the peasant returned and 
said to me : 

" Come inside ; our father has given orders for the officer 
to be brought before him." 

I entered the cottage, or the palace, as the peasants called 
it. It was lighted by two tallow candles, and the walls were 
covered with gilt paper ; otherwise, the benches, the table, 
the little wash-hand basin suspended by a cord, the towel 
hanging on a nail, the oven-fork in the corner, the. broad 
shelf loaded with pots — everything was the same as in an j 
ordinary cottage. Pougatcheff was seated under the holy ] 
picture,^ dressed in a red caftan and wearing a tall cap, and i 

^ The picture of some saint, usually painted on wood. There is 
generally one of them hung in the corner of every room in the houses of 
the Russians. 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. Ill 

with his arms set akimbo in a very self-important manner. 
Around him stood several of his principal followers, with 
looks of feigned respect and submission upon their faces. 
It was evident that the news of the arrival of an officer from 
Orenburg had awakened a great curiosity among the rebels, 
and that they had prepared to receive me with as much 
pomp as possible. PougatchefT recognized me at the first 
glance. His assumed importance vanished all at once. 

" Ah ! your lordship ! " said he gaily. " How do you do ? 
What, in Heaven's name, has brought you here ? " 

I replied that I was travelling on my own business, and 
that his people had stopped me. 

"What business?" asked he. 

I knew not what to reply. Pougatcheff, supposing that I 
Idid not like to explain in the presence of witnesses, turned 
to his companions and ordered them to go out of the room. 
All obeyed, except two, who did not stir from their places. 

"Speak boldly before them," said Pougatcheff, "I do not 
bide anything from them." 

I glanced stealthily at the impostor's confidants. One of 
^hem, a weazen-faced, crooked old man, with a short grey 
peard, had nothing remarkable about him except a blue 
•iband, which he wore across his grey tunic. But never 
ihall I forget his companion. He was a tall, powerful, 
)road-shouldered man, and seemed to me to be about forty- 
ive years of age. A thick red beard, grey piercing eyes, a 
lose without nostrils, and reddish scars upon his forehead 
nd cheeks, gave to his broad, pock-marked face an in- 
describable expression. He had on a red shirt, a Kirghis 
obe, and Cossack trousers. The first, as I learned after- 
ards, was the runaway corporal Bailoborodoff ; the other, 
fanassy Sokoloff, surnamed Khlopousha,^ a condemned 

^ The name of a celebrated bandit of the last century, who for a long 
me offered resistance to the Imperial troops. 

112 poushkin's prose tales. 

criminal, who had three times escaped from the mines of 
Siberia. In spite of the feelings of agitation which so ex- 
clusively occupied my mind at that time, the society in the 
midst of which I so unexpectedly found myself awakened 
my curiosity in a powerful degree. But Pougatcheff soon 
recalled me to myself by his question : 

" Speak ! on what business did you leave Orenburg ? " 

A strange thought came into my head : it seemed to me 
that Providence, by conducting me a second time into the 
presence of Pougatcheff, gave me the opportunity of carrying 
my project into execution. I determined to take advantage 
of it, and, without any further reflection, I replied to Pougat- 
cheff's question : 

" I was going to the fortress of Bailogorsk to rescue an 
orphan who is oppressed there." 

Pougatcheff's eyes sparkled. 

"Which of my people dares to oppress the orphan?*' 
cried he. " Were he seven feet high he should not escape 
my judgment. Speak ! who is the culprit?" 

"Shvabrin is the culprit," replied I. "He holds captive 
the young girl whom you saw ill at the priest's house, and 
wants to force her to marry him." 

" I will soon put Shvabrin in his right place," said Pougat- 
cheff fiercely. "He shall learn what it is to oppress my 
people according to his own will and pleasure. I will have 
him hanged." 

" Allow me to speak a word," said Khlopousha in a hoarse 
voice. " You were in too great a hurry in appointing Shva- 
brin to the command of the fortress, and now you are in too 
great a hurry to hang him. You have already offended the 
Cossacks by placing a nobleman over them as their chief; 
do not now alarm the nobles by hanging them at the first 

" They ought neither to be pitied nor favoured," said the 


little old man with the blue riband. " To hang Shvabrin 
would be no great misfortune, neither would it be amiss to put 
this officer through a regular course of questions. Why has 
he deigned to pay us a visit ? If he does not recognize you 
as Czar, he cannot come to seek justice from you ; and if he 
does recognize you, why has he remained up to the present 
time in Orenburg along with your enemies ? Will you not 
order him to be conducted to the court-house, and have a 
fire lit there ? ^ It seems to me that his Grace is sent to us 
from the generals in Orenburg." 

The logic of the old rascal seemed to me to be plausible 
enough. A shudder passed through the whole of my body, 
when I thought into whose hands I had fallen. Pougatcheff 
observed my agitation. 

** Well, your lordship," said he to me, winking his eyes ; 
**my Field-Marshal, it seems to me, speaks to the point. 
What do you think ? " 

Pougatcheff 's raillery restored my courage. I calnsly 
replied that I was in his power, and that he could deal with 
me in whatever way he pleased. 

" Good," said Pougatcheff. " Now tell me, in what con- 
dition is your town ? " 

" Thank God ! " I replied, " everything is all right." 

*' All right ! " repeated Pougatcheff, " and the people are 
dying of hunger ! " 

The impostor spoke the truth; but in accordance with 
the duty imposed upon me by my oath, I assured him that 
what he had heard were only idle reports, and that in Oreur 
burg there was a sufficiency of all kinds of provisions. 

" You see," observed the little old man, " that he deceives 
you to your face. All the deserters unanimously declare 
that famine and sickness are rife in Orenburg, that they 

* For the purpose of torture. 

114 poushkin's prose tales. 

are eating carrion there and think themselves fortunate to 
get it to eatj and yet his Grace assures us that there is 
plenty of everything there. If you wish to hang Shvabrin, 
then hang this young fellow on the same gallows, that they 
may have nothing to reproach each other with." 

The words of the accursed old man seemed to produce 
an effect upon Pougatcheff. Fortunately, Khlopousha began 
to contradict his companion. 

" That will do, Naoumitch," said he to him : " you only 
think of strangling and hanging. What sort of a hero are 
you ? To look at you, one is puzzled to imagine how your 
body and soul contrive to hang together. You have one 
foot in the grave yourself, and you want to kill others. 
Haven't you enough blood on your conscience ? " 

" And what sort of a saint are you ? " replied Bailoboro- 
doff. " Whence this compassion on your side ? " 

"Without doubt," replied Khlopousha, "I also am a 
sinner, and this hand" — here he clenched his bony fist 
and, pushing back his sleeve, disclosed his hairy arm — " and 
this hand is guilty of having shed Christian blood. But I 
killed my enemy, and not my guest ; on the open highway 
or in a dark wood, and not in the house, sitting behind the 
stove; with the axe and club, and not with old woman's 

The old man turned round and muttered the words : 
** Slit nostrils!" 

"What are you muttering, you old greybeard?" cried 
Khlopousha. " I will give you slit nostrils. Just wait a 
little, and your turn will come too. Heaven grant that your 
nose may smell the pincers. . . In the meantime, take 
care that I don't pull out your ugly beard by the roots." 

"Gentlemen, generals!" said Pougatcheff loftily, "there 
has been enough of this quarrelling between you. It would 
be no great misfortune if all the Orenburg dogs were hang- 


ing by the heels from the same crossbeam ; but it would be 
a very great misfortune if our own dogs were to begin 
devouring each other. So now make it up and be friends 

Khlopousha and Bailoborodoff said not a word, but glared 
furiously at each other. I felt the necessity of changing the 
subject of a conversation which might end in a very dis- 
agreeable manner for me, and turning to Pougatcheff, I said 
to him with a cheerful look : 

*' Ah ! I had almost forgotten to thank you for the horse 
and pelisse. Without you I should never have reached the 
town, and I should have been frozen to death on the road." 

My stratagem succeeded. Pougatcheff became good- 
humoured again. 

" The payment ol a debt is its beauty," said he, winking 
his eyes. " And now tell me, what have you to do with this 
young girl whom Shvabrin persecutes ? Has she kindled a 
flame in your young heart, eh ? " 

" She is my betrothed," I replied, observing a favourable 
change in the storm, and not deeming it necessary to con- 
ceal the truth. 

''Your betrothed!" exclaimed Pougatcheff. *VWhy did 
you not say so before ? We will marry you, then, and have 
some merriment at your wedding ! " 

Then turning to Bailoborodoff: 

*' Listen, Field-Marshal !" said he to him: "his lordship 
and I are old friends ; let us sit down to supper ; morning's 
udgment is wiser than that of evening — so we will see 
to-morrow what is to be done with him." 

I would gladly have declined the proposed honour, but 

there was no help for it. Two young Cossack girls, daughters 

f the owner of the cottage, covered the table with a white 

loth, and brought in some bread, fish-soup, and several 

ottles of wine and beer, and for the second time I found 



myself seated at the same table with Pougatcheff and his 
terrible companions. 

The drunken revel, of which I was an involuntary witness, 
continued till late into the night. At last, intoxication began 
to overcome the three associates. Pougatcheff fell off to 
sleep where he was sitting : his companions rose and made 
signs to me to leave him where he was. I went out with 
them. By order of Khlopousha, the sentinel conducted me 
to the justice-room, where I found Savelitch, and where 
they left me shut up with him. My servant was so astonished 
at all he saw and heard, that he could not ask me a single 
question. He lay down in the dark, and continued to sigh 
and moan for a long time ; but at length he began to snore, 
and I gave myself up to meditations, which hindered me 
from obtaining sleep for a single minute during the whole 
of the night. 

The next morning, Pougatcheff gave orders for me to be 
brought before him. I went to him. In front of his door 
stood a kibitka^ with three Tartar horses harnessed to it. 
The crowd filled the street. I encountered Pougatcheff in 
the hall. He was dressed for a journey, being attired in a 
fur cloak and a Kirghis cap. His companions of the night 
before stood around him, exhibiting an appearance of sub- , 
mission, which contrasted strongly with everything that I 
had witnessed the previous evening. Pougatcheff saluted 
me in a cheerful tone, and ordered me to sit down beside 
him in the kibitka. 

We took our seats. 

" To the fortress of Bailogorsk ! " said Pougatcheff to the 
broad-shouldered Tartar who drove the vehicle. My heart 
beat violently. The horses broke into a gallop, the little 
bell tinkled, and the kibitka flew over the snow. 

" Stop ! stop ! ** cried a voice which I knew only too well, 
and I saw Savelitch running towards us. 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. II7 

Pougatcheff ordered the driver to stop. 

" Little father, Peter Andreitch ! " cried my servant ; " do 
not leave me in my old age among these scoun " 

" Ah, old greybeard ! " said Pougatcheff to him. " It is 
God's will that we should meet again. Well, spring up behind." 

*' Thanks, Czar, thanks, my own father ! " replied Save- 
litch, taking his seat. " May God give you a hundred years 
of life and good health for deigning to cast your eyes upon 
and console an old man. I will pray to God for you all the 
days of my life, and I will never again speak about the hare- 
skin pelisse." 

This allusion to the hareskin pelisse might have made 
Pougatcheff seriously angry. Fortunately, the usurper did 
not hear, or pretended not to hear, the misplaced remark. 
The horses again broke into a gallop; the people in the 
streets stood still and made obeisance. Pougatcheff bowed 
his head from side to side. In about a minute we had left 
the village behind us and were flying along over the smooth 
surface of the road. 

One can easily imagine what my feelings were at that 
moment. In a few hours I should again set eyes upon her 
whom I had already considered as lost to me for ever. I 
pictured to myself the moment of our meeting. ... I 
thought also of the man in whose hands lay my fate, and 
who, by a strange concourse of circumstances, had become 
mysteriously connected with me. I remembered the thought- 
less cruelty and the bloodthirsty habits of him, who now 
constituted himself the deliverer of my beloved. Pougat- 
cheff did not know that she was the daughter of Captain 
Mironoff ; the exasperated Shvabrin might reveal everything 
to him ; it was also possible that Pougatcheff might find out 
the truth in some other way. . . . Then what would become 
of Maria Ivanovna ? A shudder passed through my frame, 
and my hair stood on end. 


Suddenly Pougatcheff interrupted my meditations, by 
turning to me with the question : 

"What is your lordship thinking of?" 

"What should I not be thinking of," I replied. *'I am 
an officer and a gentleman; only yesterday I was fighting 
against you, and now to-day I am riding side by side with 
you in the same carriage, and the happiness of my whole life 
depends upon you." 

" How so ? " asked Pougatcheff. " Are you afraid ? " 

I replied that, having already had my life spared by him, 
I hoped, not only for his mercy, but even for his assistance. 

" And you are right ; by God, you are right ! " said the 
impostor. "You saw that my fellows looked askant at 
you ; and this morning the old man persisted in his state- 
ment that you were a spy, and that it was necessary that 
you should be interrogated by means of torture and then 
hanged. But I would not consent to it," he added, lower- 
ing his voice, so that Savelitch and the Tartar should not 
be able to hear him, "because I remembered your glass 
of wine and hareskin pelisse. You see now that I am 
not such a bloodthirsty creatuie as your brethren main- 

I recalled to mind the capture of the fortress of Bailogorsk 
but I did not think it advisable to contradict him, and so I 
made no reply. 

" What do they say of me in Orenburg ? " asked Pougat , 
cheff, after a short interval of silence. 

"They say that it will be no easy matter to get the upper 
hand of you ; and there is no denying that you have made 
yourself felt." 

The face of the impostor betokened how much his vanity 
was gratified by this remark. 

" Yes," said he, with a look of self-satisfaction, " I wage 
war to some purpose. Do you people in Orenburg know 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. II9 

about the battle of Youzeiff ? ^ Forty general officers killed, 
four armies taken captive. Do you think the King of 
Prussia could do as well as that ? " 

The boasting of the brigand appeared to me to be some- 
what amusing. 

"What do you think about it yourself?" I said to him: 
*' do you think that you could beat Frederick ? " 

" Fedor Fedorovitch ? ^ And why not ? I beat your 
generals, and they have beaten him. My arms have always 
been successful up till now. But only wait awhile, you will 
see something very different when I march to Moscow." 

^'And do you intend marching to Moscow?" 

The impostor reflected for a moment and then said in a 
low voice : 

" God knows. My road is narrow ; my will is weak. My 
followers do not obey me. They are scoundrels. I must 
keep a sharp look-out ; at the first reverse they will save 
their own necks at the expense of my head." 

"That is quite true," I said to Pougatcheff. "Would it 
not be better for you to separate yourself from them in 
good time, and throw yourself upon the mercy of the 
Empress ? " , 

Pougatcheff smiled bitterly. 

" No," replied he : " it is too late for me to repent now. 
There would be no pardon for me. I will go on as I have 
begun. Who knows? Perhaps I shall be successful. 
Grishka Otrepieff was made Czar at Moscow." 

"And do you know what his end was? He was flung 
out of a window, his body was cut to pieces and burnt, and 
then his ashes were placed in a cannon and scattered to the 
winds ! " 

*' Listen," said Pougatcheff with a certain wild inspiration. 

^ An engagement in which Pougatcheff had the advantage. 

^ The name given to Frederick the Great by the Russian soldiers, 


" I will tell you a tale which was told to me in my childhood 
by an old Calmuck. ' The eagle once said to the crow : 
" Tell me, crow, why is it that you live in this bright world 
for three hundred years, and I only for thirty-three years ? " 
— " Because, Httle father," replied the crow, " you drink live 
blood, and I live on carrion." — The eagle reflected for a 
little while and then said : " Let us both try and live on the 
same food." — " Good ! agreed ! " The eagle and the crow 
flew away. Suddenly they caught sight of a fallen horse, 
and they alighted upon it. The crow began to pick its 
flesh and found it very good. The eagle tasted it once, 
then a second time, then shook its pinions and said to the 
crow : " No, brother crow ; rather than live on carrion for 
three hundred years, I would prefer to drink live blood but 
once, and trust in God for what might happen afterwards ! " * 
What do you think of the Calmuck's story ? " 

" It is very ingenious," I replied. " But to live by murder 
and robbery is, in my opinion, nothing else than living on 

Pougatcheff" looked at me in astonishment and made no 
reply. We both became silent, each being wrapped in his 
own thoughts. The Tartar began to hum a plaintive song. 
Savelitch, dozing, swayed from side to side. The kibitka 
glided along rapidly over the smooth frozen road. . . . Sud- 
denly I caught sight of a little village on the steep bank of 
the Yaik, with its palisade and belfry, and about a quarter of 
an hour afterwards we entered the fortress of Bailogorsk. 




THE kibitka drew up in front of the Commandant's 
house. The inhabitants had recognized Pougatcheff's 
little bell, and came crowding around us. ' Shvabrin met the 
impostor at the foot of the steps. He was dressed as a 
Cossack, and had allowed his beard to grow. The traitor 
helped Pougatcheff to alight from the kibitka^ expressing, in 
obsequious terms, his joy and zeal. On seeing me, he 
became confused; but quickly recovering himself, he 
stretched out his hand to me, saying : 

" And are you also one of us ? You should have been so 
long ago ! " 

I turned away from him and made no reply. 

My heart ached when we entered the well-known room, 
on the wall of which still hung the commission of the late 
Commandant, as a mournful epitaph of the past. Pougat- 
cheff seated himself upon the same sofa on which Ivan 
Kouzmitch was accustomed to fall asleep, lulled by the 
scolding of his wife. Shvabrin himself brought him some 
brandy. Pougatcheff drank a glass, and said to him, 
pointing to me : 

" Give his lordship a glass." 

Shvabrin approached me with his tray, but I turned away 
from him a second time. He seemed to have become quite 
another person. With his usual sagacity, he had certainly 
perceived that Pougatcheff was dissatisfied with him. 


He cowered before him, and glanced at me with dis- 

Pougatcheff asked some questions concerning the condi- 
tion of the fortress, the reports referring to the enemy's 
army, and the Uke. Then suddenly and unexpectedly he 
said to him : 

" Tell me, my friend, who is this young girl that you hold 
a prisoner here ? Show her to me." 

Shvabrin turned as pale as death. 

" Czar," said he, in a trembling voice ..." Czar, she is 
not a prisoner . . . she is ill . . . she is in bed." 

" Lead me to "her," said the impostor, rising from his 

Refusal was impossible. Shvabrin conducted Pougatcheff 
to Maria Ivanovna's room. I followed behind them. 

Shvabrin stopped upon the stairs. 

" Czar," said he : " you may demand of me whatever you 
please; but do not permit a stranger to enter my wife's 

I shuddered. 

" So you are married ! " I said to Shvabrin, ready to tear 
him to pieces. 

"Silence!" interrupted Pougatcheff: "that is my busi- 
ness. And you," he continued, turning to Shvabrin, " keep 
your airs and graces to yourself: whether she be your wife 
or whether she be not, I will take to her whomsoever I 
please. Your lordship, follow me." 

At the door of the room Shvabrin stopped again, and 
said in a faltering voice : 

" Czar, I must inform you that she is in a high fever, and 
has been raving incessantly for the last three days." 

" Open the door ! " said Pougatcheff. 

Shvabrin began to search in his pockets and then said 
that he had not brought the key with him. Pougatcheff 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 1 23 

pushed the door with his foot ; the lock gave way, the door 
opened, and we entered. 

I glanced round the room — and nearly fainted away. 
On the floor, clad in a ragged peasant's dress, sat Maria 
Ivanovna, pale, thin, and with dishevelled hair. Before her 
stood a pitcher of water, covered with a piece of bread. 
Seeing me, she shuddered and uttered a piercing cry. What 
I felt at that moment I cannot describe. 

Pougatcheff looked at Shvabrin and aaid with a sarcastic 
smile : 

"You have a very nice hospital here ! " 

Then approaching Maria Ivanovna : 

" Tell me, my little dove, why does your husband punish 
you in this manner?" 

" My husband !" repeated she. " He is not my husband. 
I will never be his wife ! I would rather die, and I will die, 
if I am not set free." 

Pougatcheff cast a threatening glance at Shvabrin. 

*' And you have dared to deceive me ! " he said to him. 
" Do you know, scoundrel, what you deserve ? " 

Shvabrm fell upon his knees. ... At that moment con- 
tempt extinguished within me all feelings of hatred and 
resentment. I looked with disgust at the sight of a noble- 
pan grovelling at the feet of a runaway Cossack. 

Pougatcheff relented. 

" I forgive you this time," he said to Shvabrin : **but bear 
n mind that the next time you are guilty of an offence, I 
ill remember this one also." 

Then he turned to Maria Ivanovna and said to her 
dndly : 

*' Go, my pretty girl ; I give you your liberty. I am the 

Maria Ivanovna glanced rapidly at him, and intuitively 
[ivined that before her stood the murderer of her parents, 


124 poushkin's prose tales. 

She covered her face with both hands and fainted away. 1 
hastened towards her; but at that moment my old ac- 
quaintance, Palasha, very boldly entered the room, and 
began to attend to her young mistress. Pougatcheff quitted 
the apartment, and we all three entered the parlour. 

"Well, your lordship," said Pougatcheff smiling, **we 
have set the pretty girl free ! What do you say to sending 
for the pope and making him marry his niece to you ? If 
you like, I will act as father, and Shvabrin shall be your best 
man. We will then smoke and drink and make ourselves 
merry to our hearts' content ! " 

What I feared took place. Shvabrin, hearing Pougat- 
cheff 's proposal, was beside himself with rage. 

" Czar ! " he exclaimed, in a transport of passion, " I am 
guilty ; I have lied to you ; but Grineff is deceiving you 
also. This young girl is not the pope's niece : she is the 
daughter of Ivan Mironoff, who was hanged at the taking of 
the fortress." 

Pougatcheff glanced at me with gleaming eyes. 

** What does this mean ? " he asked in a gloomy tone. 

"Shvabrin has told you the truth," I replied in a firm 

" You did not tell me that," replied Pougatcheff, whose 
face had become clouded. 

** Judge of the matter yourself," I replied : " could I, in 
the presence of your people, declare that she was the 
daughter of Mironoff? They would have torn her to 
pieces ! Nothing would have saved her ! " 

" You are right," said Pougatcheff smiling. '* My drunkards 
would not have spared the poor girl; the pope's wife did 
well to deceive them." 

" Listen," I continued, seeing him so well disposed ; ** I 
know not what to call you, and I do not wish to know. . . . 
3ut God is my witness that I would willingly repay you with 


my life for what you have done for me. But do not demand 
of me anything that is against my honour and my Christian 
conscience. You are my benefactor. End as you have 
begun : let me go away with that poor orphan wherever 
God will direct us. And wherever you may be, and what- 
ever may happen to you, we will pray to God every day for 
the salvation of your soul. . . ." 

Pougatcheff's fierce soul seemed touched. 
" Be it as you wish ! " said he. " Punish thoroughly or 
pardon thoroughly : that is my way. Take your beautiful 
one, take her wherever you like, and may God grant you 
jlove and counsel !" 

j Then he turned to Shvabrin and ordered him to give me 
la safe conduct for all barriers and fortresses subjected to 
his authority. Shvabrin, completely dumbfounded, stood 
as if petrified. Pougatcheff then went off to inspect the 
kbrtress. Shvabrin accompanied him, and I remained 
behind under the pretext of making preparations for my 

I hastened to Maria's room. The door was locked. I 
" Who is there ? " asked Palasha. 

I called out my name. The sweet voice of Maria Ivan- 
>vna sounded from behind the door : 

"Wait a moment, Peter Andreitch. I am changing my 
Iress. Go to Akoulina Pamphilovna; I shall be there 

I obeyed and made my way to the house of Father 
Jerasim. He and his wife came forward to meet me. 
avelitch had already informed them of what had happened. 
"You are welcome, Peter Andreitch," said the pope's 
fe. " God has ordained that we should meet again. 
nd how are you ? Not a day has passed without our talk- 
g about you. And Maria Ivanovna^ the poor little 4ove, 


what has she not suffered while you have been away ! Bui 
tell us, little father, how did you manage to arrange matters 
with Pougatcheff ? How was it that he did not put you to 
death ? The villain be thanked for that, at all events ! " 

" Enough, old woman," interrupted Father Gerasim.  
" Don't babble about everything that you know. There is \ 
no salvation for chatterers. Come in, Peter Andreitch, I 
beg of you. It is a long, long time since we saw each other." 

The pope's wife set before me everything that she had in 
the house, without ceasing to chatter away for a single 
moment. She related to me in what manner Shvabrin had 
compelled them to deliver Maria Ivanovna up to him ; how 
the poor girl wept and did not wish to be parted from them ; j 
how she had kept up a constant communication with them 
by means of Palashka^ (a bold girl who compelled the 
orderly himself to dance to her pipe) ; how she had advised 
Maria Ivanovna to write a letter to me, and so forth. 

I then, in my turn, briefly related to them my story. The 
pope and his wife made the sign of the cross on hearing that | 
Pougatcheff had become acquainted with their deception. 

''The power of the Cross defend us !" ejaculated Akou-i 
Una Pamphilovna. ** May God grant that the cloud will| 
pass over. Well, well, Alexei Ivanitch, you are a very nicel 
fellow : there is no denying that ! " I 

At that moment the door opened, and Maria Ivanovnaf 
entered the room with a smile upon her pale face. She had ' 
doffed her peasant's dress, and was attired as before, plainly 
and becomingly. 

I grasped her hand and for some time could not utter a' 
single word. We were both silent from fulness of heart. 
Our hosts felt that their presence was unnecessary to us, 
and so they withdrew. We were left by ourselves. Every- 

Piminutive of Palasha» 


THE captain's DAUGHTER. 1 27 

thing else was forgotten. We talked and talked and could 
not say enough to each other. Maria related to me all that 
had happened to her since the capture of the fortress ; she 
described to me all the horror of her situation, all the trials 
which she had experienced at the hands of the detestable 
Shvabrin. We recalled to mind the happy days of the past, 
and we could not prevent the tears coming into our eyes. At 
last I began to explain to her my project. For her to remain in 
the fortress, subjected to PougatchefT and commanded by 
Shvabrin, was impossible. Neither could I think of taking 
her to Orenburg, just then undergoing all the calamities of 
a siege. She had not a single relative in the whole world. 
I proposed to her that she should seek shelter with my 
parents. She hesitated at first : my father's unfriendly dis- 

rosition towards her frightened her. I made her mind easy 
n that score. I knew that my father would consider him- 
self bound in honour to receive into his house the daughter 
of a brave and deserving soldier who had lost his life in the 
service of his country. 

" Dear Maria Ivanovna," I said at last : " I look upon 
ou as my wife. Strange circumstances have united us to- 
ether indissolubly ; nothing in the world can separate 

Maria Ivanovna Hstened to me without any assumption 
f affectation. She felt that her fate was Hnked with mine. 
But she repeated that she would never be my wife, except 
vith the consent of my parents. I did not contradict her. 
•Ve kissed each other fervently and passionately, and in this 
nanner everything was resolved upon between us. 

About an hour afterwards, the orderly brought me my safe 
:onduct, inscribed with Pougatcheff's scrawl, and informed 
ne that his master wished to see me. I found him ready to 
et out on his road. I cannot describe what I felt on taking 
eave of this terrible man, this outcast, so villainously cruel 

128 poushkin's prose tales. 

to all except myself alone. But why should I not tell the 
truth? At that moment I felt drawn towards him by 
a powerful sympathy. I ardently wished to tear him away 
from the midst of the scoundrels, whom he commanded, and 
save his head while there was yet time. Shvabrin, and the 
crowd gathered around us, prevented me from giving ex- 
pression to all that filled my heart. 

We parted as friends. PougatchefF, catching sight of 
Akoulina Pamphilovna among the crowd, threatened her 
with his finger and winked significantly ; then he seated 
himself in his kibitka^ and gave orders to return to Berd \ 
and when the horses started off, he leaned once out of the 
carriage, and cried out to me : " Farewell, your lordship I 
Perhaps we shall see each other again ! " 

We did indeed see each other again, but under what cir- 
cumstances ! 

Pougatcheff was gone. I stood for a long time gazing 
across the white steppe, over which his troika ^ went gliding 
rapidly. The crowd dispersed. Shvabrin disappeared. I 
returned to the pope's house. Everything was ready for 
our departure; I did not wish to delay any longer. Our 
luggage had already been deposited in the Commandant's 
old travelling carriage. The horses were harnessed in a 
twinkling. Maria Ivanovna went to pay a farewell visit to 
the graves of her parents, who were buried behind the 
church. I wished to accompany her, but she begged of me to 
let her go alone. After a few minutes she returned silently 
weeping. The carriage was ready. Father Gerasim and 
his wife came out upon the steps. Maria Ivanovna, Palasha 
and I took our places inside the kibitka^ while Savelitch 
seated himself in the front. 

"Farewell, Maria Ivanovna, my little dove; farewell^ 

^ An open vehicle drawn by three horses yoked abreast. 


Peter Andreitch, my fine falcon ! " said the pope's good 
wife. " A safe journey, and may God bless you both and 
make you happy ! " 

We drove off. At the window of the Commandant's 
house I perceived Shvabrin standing. His face wore an 
expression of gloomy malignity. I did not wish to triumph 
over a defeated enemy, so I turned my eyes the other way. 

At last we passed out of the gate, and left the fortress of 
Bailogorsk behind us for ever. 





UNITED SO unexpectedly with the dear girl, about whom 
I was so terribly uneasy that very morning, I could 
scarcely believe the evidence of my senses, and imagined 
that everything that had happened to me was nothing but 
an empty dream. Maria Ivanovna gazed thoughtfully, now at 
me, now at the road, and seemed as if she had not yet suc- 
ceeded in recovering her senses. We were both silent. 
Our hearts were too full of emotion. The time passed 
almost imperceptibly, and after journeying for about two 
hours, we reached the next fortress, which was also subject 
to Pougatcheff. Here we changed horses. By the rapidity 
with which this was effected, and by the obliging manner of 
the bearded Cossack who had been appointed Commandant 
by Pougatcheff, I perceived that, thanks to the gossip of our 
driver, I was taken for a favourite of their master. 

We continued our journey. It began to grow dark. We 
approached a small town, where, according to the bearded 
Commandant, there was a strong detachment on its way to 
join the impostor. We were stopped by the sentries. In 
answer to the challenge : " Who goes there ? " our driver 
rejolied in a loud voice : " The Czar's friend with his little 

Suddenly a troop of hussars surrounded us, uttering the 
most terrible curses. 

" Step down, friend of the devil ! " said a moustached 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. I3I 

sergeant-major. "We will make it warm for you and your 
little wife ! " 

I got out of the kibitka and requested to be brought 
before their commander. On seeing my officer's uniform, 
the soldiers ceased their imprecations, and the sergeant con- 
ducted me to the major. 

Savelitch followed me, muttering : 

" So much for your being a friend of the Czar ! Out of 
the frying-pan into the fire. Lord Almighty ! how is all this 
going to end ? " 

The kibitka followed behind us at a slow pace. 

In about five minutes we arrived at a small, well-lighted 
house. The sergeant-major left me under a guard and 
entered to announce me. He returned immediately and 
informed me that his Highness had no time to receive me, 
but that he had ordered that I should be taken to prison, 
and my wife conducted into his presence. 

" What does this mean ? " I exclaimed in a rage. " Has 
he taken leave of his senses ? " 

*' I do not know, your lordship," replied the sergeant- 
major. " Only his Highness has ordered that your 
lordship should be taken to prison, and her ladyship 
conducted into his presence, your lordship ! " 

I dashed up the steps. The sentinel did not think of de- 
taining me, and I made my way straight into the room, where 
six hussar officers were playing at cards. The major was 
deahng. What was my astonishment when, looking at him 
attentively, I recognized Ivan Ivanovitch Zourin, who had 
once beaten me at play in the Simbirsk tavern. 

" Is it possible ? " I exclaimed. " Ivan Ivanovitch 1 Is 
it really you ? " 

'^ Zounds ! Peter Andreitch ! What chance has brought 
you here ? Where have you come from ? How is it with 
you, brother ? Won't you join in a game of cards ? " 



** Thank you, but I would much rather you give orders foi 
quarters to be assigned to me." 

" What sort of quarters do you want ? Stay with me.** 

" I cannot : I am not alone." 

" Well, bring your comrade with you." 

" I have no comrade with me ; I am with a — lady." 

** A lady ! Where did you pick her up ? Aha, brother 
mine ! " 

And with these words, Zourin whistled so significantly 
that all the others burst out laughing, and I felt perfectly 

" Well," continued Zourin : " let it be so. You shall have 
quarters. But it is a pity .... We should have had one 
of our old sprees .... I say, boy ! Why don't you bring 
in Pougatcheff 's lady friend ? Or is she obstinate ? Tell her 
that she need not be afraid, that the gentleman is very kind 
and will do her no harm — then bring her in by the collar." 

" What do you mean ? " said I to Zourin. " What lady- 
friend of Pougatcheff' s are you talking of? It is the daughter 
of the late Captain Mironoff. I have released her from cap- 
tivity, and I am now conducting her to my father's country 
seat, where I am going to leave her." 

" What ! Was it you then who was announced to me just 
now ? In the name of Heaven ! what does all this mean ? " 

" I will tell you later on. For the present, I beg of you to 
set at ease the mind of this poor girl, who has been terribly 
frightened by your hussars." 

Zourin immediately issued the necessary orders. He went 
out himself into the street to apologize to Maria Ivanovna 
for the involuntary misunderstanding, and ordered the ser- 
geant-major to conduct her to the best lodging in the town. 
I remained to spend the night with him. 

We had supper, and when we two were left together, I re- 
lated to him ray adventures. Zourin listened to me with 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 1 33 

the greatest attention. When I had finished, he shook his 
head, and said : 

"That is all very well, brother; but there is one thing 
which is not so ; why the devil do you want to get married ? 
As an officer and a man of honour, I do not wish to deceive 
you; but, believe me, marriage is all nonsense. Why 
should you saddle yourself with a wife and be compelled to 
dandle children ? Scout the idea. Listen to me : shake off 
this Captain's daughter. I have cleared the road to Sim- 
birsk, and it is quite safe. Send her to-morrow by herself to 
your parents, and you remain with my detachment. There 
is no need for you to return to Orenburg. If you should 
again fall into the hands of the rebels, you may not escape 
from them so easily a second time. In this way your love 
folly will die a natural death, and everything will end 

Although I did not altogether agree with him, yet I felt 
that duty and honour demanded my presence in the army of 
the Empress. I resolved to follow Zourin's advice : to send 
Maria Ivanovna to my father's estate, and to remain with his 

Savelitch came in to help me to undress ; I told him that 
he was to get ready the next day to accompany Maria 
Ivanovna on her journey. He began to make excuses. 

"What do you say, my lord? How can I leave you? 
W\io will look after you ? What will your parents say ? " 

Knowing the obstinate disposition of my follower, I 
resolved to get round him by wheedling and coaxing him. 

*' My dear friend, Arkhip Savelitch ! " I said to him : " do 
not refuse me; be my benefactor. I do not require a 
servant here, and I should not feel easy if Maria Ivanovna 
were to set out on her journey without you. By serving her 
you will be serving me, for I am firmly resolved to marry her, 
as soon as circumstances will permit." 

134 poushkin's prose tales. 

Here Savelitch clasped his hands with an indescribable 
look of astonishment. 

" To marry ! " he repeated : " the child wants to marry ! 
But what will your father say ? And your mother, what will 
she think ? " 

** They will give their consent, without a doubt, when they 
know Maria Ivanovna," I repUed. *' I count upon you. 
My father and mother have great confidence in you ; you 
will therefore intercede for us, won't you?" 

The old man was touched. 

** Oh, my father, Peter Andreitch ! " he replied, " although 
you are thinking of getting married a little too early, yet 
Maria Ivanovna is such a good young lady, that it would be 
a pity to let the opportunity escape. I will do as you wish. 
I will accompany her, the angel, and I will humbly say 
to your parents, that such a bride does not need a 

I thanked Savelitch, and then lay down to sleep in the 
same room with Zourin. Feeling very much excited, I 
began to chatter. At first Zourin listened to my remarks 
very willingly ; but little by little his words became rarer 
and more disconnected, and at last, instead of replying to 
one of my questions, he began to snore. I stopped talking 
and soon followed his example. 

The next morning I betook myself to Maria Ivanovna. 
I communicated to her my plans. She recognized the 
reasonableness of them, and immediately agreed to carry 
them out. Zourin's detachment was to leave the town that 
day. There was no time to be lost. I at once took leave 
of Maria Ivanovna, confiding her to the care of Savelitch, 
and giving her a letter to my parents. 

Maria burst into tears. 

" Farewell, Peter Andreitch," said she in a gentle voice. 
" God alone knows whether we shall ever see each other 


THE captain's DAUGHTER. 1 35 

again or not ; but I will never forget you ; till my dying day 
you alone shall live in my heart ! " 

I was unable to reply. There was a crowd of people 
around us, and I did not wish to give way to my feelings 
before them. At last she departed. I returned to Zourin, 
silent and depressed. He endeavoured to cheer me up, 
and I tried to divert my thoughts; we spent the day in 
noisy mirth, and in the evening we set out on our march. 

It was now near the end of February. The winter, which 
had rendered all military movements extremely difficult, 
was drawing to its close, and our generals began to make 
preparations for combined action. Pougatcheff was still 
under the walls of Orenburg, but our divisions united and 
began to close in from every side upon the rebel camp. 
On the appearance of our troops, the revolted villages 
returned to their allegiance; the rebel bands everywhere 
retreated before us, and everything gave promise of a 
speedy and successful termination to the campaign. 

Soon afterwards Prince Golitzin defeated Pougatcheff 
under the walls of the fortress of Tatischtscheff, routed his 
troops, relieved Orenburg, and to all appearances seemed 
to have given the final and decisive blow to the rebellion. 
Zourin was sent at this time against a band of rebellious 
Bashkirs, who, however, dispersed before we were able to 
come up with them. The spring found us in a little Tartar 
village. The rivers overflowed their banks, and the roads 
became impassable. We consoled ourselves for our in- 
action with the thought that there would soon be an end to 
this tedious petty warfare with brigands and savages. 

But Pougatcheff was not yet taken. He soon made his 
appearance in the manufacturing districts of Siberia, where 
he collected new bands of followers and once more com- 
menced his marauding expeditions. Reports of fresh 
successes on his part were soon in circulation. We heard 


of the destruction of several Siberian fortresses. Then 
came the news of the capture of Kazan, and the march of 
the impostor to Moscow, which greatly disturbed the leaders 
of the army, who had fondly imagined that the power of 
the despised rebel had been completely broken. Zourin 
received orders to cross the Volga. 

I will not describe our march and the conclusion of the 
war. I will only say that the campaign was as calamitous 
as it possibly could be. Law and order came to an end 
everywhere, and the land-holders concealed themselves in 
the woods. Bands of robbers scoured the country in all 
directions; the commanders of isolated detachments 
punished and pardoned as they pleased ; and the condition 
of the extensive territory in which the conflagration raged, 
was terrible. . . . Heaven grant that we may never see such 
a senseless and merciless revolt again ! 

Pougatcheff took to flight, pursued by Ivan Ivanovitch 
Michelson. We soon heard of his complete overthrow. 
At last Zourin received news of the capture of the impostor, 
and, at the same time, orders to halt. The war was ended. 
At last it was possible for me to return to my parents. The 
thought of embracing them, and of seeing Maria Ivanovna 
again, of whom I had received no information, filled me 
with delight. I danced about like a child. Zourin laughed 
and said with a shrug of his shoulders : 

'* No good will come of it ! If you get married, you are 

In the meantime a strange feeling poisoned my joy : the 
thought of that evil-doer, covered with the blood of so many 
innocent victims, and of the punishment that awaited him, 
troubled me involuntarily. 

" Emelia, Emelia ! " ^ I said to myself with vexation, 

* Diminutive of Emelian. 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. 137 

"why did you not dash yourself against the bayonets, or 
fall beneath the bullets ? That was the best thing you could 
have done." ^ 

And how could I feel otherwise ? The thought of him 
was inseparably connected with the thought of the mercy 
which he had shown to me in one of the most terrible 
moments of my life, and with the deliverance of my bride 
from the hands of the detested Shvabrin. 

Zourin granted me leave of absence. In a few days' 
time I should again be in the midst of my family, and 
should once again set eyes upon the face of my Maria 
Ivanovna. . . . Suddenly an unexpected storm burst upon 

On the day of my departure, and at the very moment 
when I was preparing to set out, Zourin came to my hut, 
holding in his hand a paper, and looking exceedingly 
troubled. A pang went through my heart. I felt alarmed, 
without knowing why. He sent my servant out of the 
room, and said that he had something to tell me. 

"What is it?" I asked with uneasiness. 

" Something rather disagreeable," replied he, giving me 
the paper. " Read what I have just received." 

I read it : it was a secret order to all the commanders of 
detachments to arrest me wherever I might be found, and 
to send me without delay under a strong guard to Kazan, 
to appear before the Commission instituted for the trial of 

The paper nearly fell from my hands. 

" There is no help for it," said Zourin, " my duty is to 
obey orders. Probably the report of your intimacy with 

^ After having advanced to the gates of Moscow, Pougatcheff was 
defeated, and being afterwards sold by his accomplices for 100,000 
roubles, he was imprisoned in an iron cage and carried to Moscow, 
where he was executed in the year 1775. 


Pougatcheff has in some way reached the ears of the 
authorities. I hope that the affair will have no serious 
consequences, and that you will be able to justify yourself 
before the Commission. Keep up your spirits and set out 
at once." 

My conscience was clear, and I did not fear having to 
appear before the tribunal ; but the thought that the hour 
of my meeting with Maria might be deferred for several 
months, filled me with misgivings. 

The telega ^ was ready. Zourin took a friendly leave of me, 
and I took my place in the vehicle. Two hussars with 
drawn swords seated themselves, one on each side of me, 
and we set out for our destination. 

* An open vehicle without springs. 




I FELT convinced that the cause of my arrest was my ab- 
senting myself from Orenburg without leave. I could 
easily justify myself on that score : for sallying out against the 
enemy had not only not been prohibited, but had even been 
encouraged. I might be accused of undue rashness instead 
of disobedience of orders. But my friendly intercourse with 
Pougatcheff could be proved by several witnesses, and could 
not but at least appear very suspicious. During the whole of 
the journey I thought of the examination that awaited me, 
and mentally prepared the answers that I should make. I 
resolved to tell the plain unvarnished truth before the court, 
feeling convinced that this was the simplest and, at the same 
time, the surest way of justifying myself. 

I arrived at Kazan — the town had been plundered and set 
on fire. In the streets, instead of houses, there were to be 
seen heaps of burnt stones, and blackened walls without 
roofs or windows. Such were the traces left by Pougatcheff ! 
I was conducted to the fortress which had escaped the 
ravages of tlie fire. The hussars delivered me over to the 
officer of the guard. The latter ordered a blacksmith to be 
sent for. Chains were placed round my feet and fastened 
together. Then I was taken to the prison and left alone in 
a dark and narrow dungeon, with four blank walls and a small 
window protected by iron gratings. 

Such a beginning boded no good to me. For all that, I 

I40 poushkin's prose tales. 

did not lose hope nor courage. I had recourse to the con- 
solation of all those in affliction, and after having tasted for 
the first time the sweet comforting of prayer poured out from 
a pure but sorrow-stricken heart, I went oflf into a calm 
sleep, without thinking of what might happen to me. 

The next morning the gaoler awoke me with the an- 
nouncement that I was to appear before the Commission. 
Two soldiers conducted me through a courtyard to the 
Commandant's house : they stopped in the ante-room and 
allowed me to enter the inner room by myself. 

I found myself in a good-sized apartment. At the table, 
which was covered with papers, sat two men : an elderly 
general, of a cold and stem aspect, and a young captain of 
the Guards, of about twenty-eight years of age, and of very 
agreeable and affable appearance. Near the window, at 
a separate table, sat the secretary, with a pen behind his ear, 
and bending over his paper, ready to write down my depo- 

The examination began. I was asked my name and pro- 
fession. The General inquired if I was the son of Andrei 
Petrovitch Grineff, and on my replying in the affirmative, he 
exclaimed in a stem tone : 

"It is a pity that such an honourable man should have 
such an unworthy son ! " 

I calmly replied that whatever were the accusations against 
me, I hoped to be able to refute them by the candid avowal 
of the tmth. 

My assurance did not please him. ' ^ 

" You are very audacious, my friend," said he, frowning : 
" but we have dealt with others like you." 

Then the young officer asked me under what circum- 
stances and at what time I had entered Pougatcheff's ser- 
vice, and in what affairs I had been employed by him. 

I replied indignantly, that, as an officer and a nobleman. 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. I4I 

I could never have entered Pougatcheflf's service, and could 
never have received any commission from him whatever. 

" How comes it then," continued the interrogator, " that 
the nobleman and officer was the only one spared by the im- 
postor, while all his comrades were cruelly murdered ? How 
comes it that this same officer and nobleman could revel 
with the rebellious scoundrels, and receive from the leader 
of the villains presents, consisting of a pelisse, a horse, and 
half a rouble ? Whence came such strange friendship, and 
I upon what does it rest, if not upon treason, or at least upon 
abominable and unpardonable cowardice ? '* 

I was deeply offended by the words of the officer of the 
Guards, and I began to defend myself with great warmth. 

related how my acquaintance with Pougatcheff began 
upon the steppe during a snow-storm, how he had recog- 
nized me at the capture of the fortress of Bailogorsk and 
spared my life. I admitted that I had received a pelisse 
and a horse from the impostor, but that I had defended the 
fortress of Bailogorsk against the rebels to the last extremity. 
In conclusion I appealed to my General, who could bear 
witness to my zeal during the disastrous siege of Orenburg. 

The stern old man took up from the table an open letter 
and began to read it aloud : 

" In reply to your Excellency's inquiry respecting Ensign 
Grineff, who is charged with being implicated in the present 
nsurrection and with entering into communication with the 
leader of the robbers, contrary to the rules of the service 
and the oath of allegiance, I have the honour to report that 
;he said Ensign Grineff formed part of the garrison in Oren- 
burg from the beginning of October 1773 to the twenty- 
bur th of February of the present year, on which date 
le quitted the town, and since that time he has not made 
lis appearance again. We have heard from some deserters 
hat he was in Pougatcheff 's camp, and that he accompanied 


him to the fortress of Bailogorsk, where he had formerly 
been garrisoned. With respect to his conduct, I can 
only " 

Here the General interrupted his reading and said to me 
harshly : 

"What do you say now by way of justification?" 

I was about to continue as I began and explain the state 
of affairs between myself and Maria Ivanovna as frankly as 
all the rest, but suddenly I felt an invincible disgust at the 
thought of doing so. It occurred to my mind, that if I 
mentioned her name, the Commission would summon her 
to appear, and the thought of connecting her name with the 
vile doings of hardened villains, and of herself being con- 
fronted with them — this terrible idea produced such an im- 
pression upon me, that I became confused and maintained 

My judges, who seemed at first to have listened to 
my answers with a certain amount of good-will, were once 
more prejudiced against me on perceiving my confusion. 
The officer of the Guards demanded that I should be con- 
fronted with my principal accuser. The General ordered 
that the "rascal of yesterday" should be summoned. I 
turned round quickly towards the door, to await the appear- 
ance of my accuser. After a few moments I heard the 
clanking of chains, the door opened, and — Shvabrin entered 
the room. I was astonished at the change in his appear- 
ance. He was terribly thin and pale. His hair, but a short 
time ago as black as pitch, was now quite grey ; his long 
beard was unkempt. He repeated all his accusations in 
a weak but determined voice. According to his account, I 
had been sent by Pougatcheff to Orenburg as a spy ; every 
day I used to ride out to the advanced posts, in order 
to transmit written information of all that took place within 
the town ; that at last I had gone quite over to the side of 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. I43 

the usurper and had accompanied him from fortress to for. 
tress, endeavouring in every way to injure my companions 
in crime, in order to occupy their places and profit the 
better by the rewards of the impostor. 

I listened to him in silence, and I rejoiced on account of one 
thing : the name of Maria was not mentioned by the scoun- 
drel, whether it was that his self-love could not bear the 
thought of one who had rejected him with contempt, or that 
within his heart there was a spark of that self-same feeling 
which had induced me to remain silent. Whatever it was, 
the name of the daughter of the Commandant of Bailogorsk 
was not pronounced in the presence of the Commission. I 
became still more confirmed in my resolution, and when the 
judges asked me what I had to say in answer to Shvabrin's 
evidence, I replied that I still stood by my first statement and 
that I had nothing else to add in justification of myself. 

The General ordered us to be led away. We quitted the 
room together. I looked calmly at Shvabrin, but did not 
say a word to him. He looked at me with a malicious smile, 
lifted up hfs fetters and passed out quickly in front of me. 
I was conducted back to prison, and was not compelled to 
undergo a second examination. 

I was not a witness of all that now remains for me to im- 
part to the reader ; but I have heard it related so often, that 
the most minute details are indelibly engraven upon my 
memory, and it seems to me as if I had taken a part in them 

Maria Ivanovna was received by my parents with that 
sincere kindness which distinguished people in the olden 
time. They regarded it as a favour from God that the 
opportunity was afforded them of sheltering and consoling 
the poor orphan. They soon became sincerely attached to 
her, because it was impossible to know her and not to love 
her. My love for her no longer appeared mere folly to my 

144 poushkin's prose tales. 

father, and my mother had one wish only, that her Petei 
should marry the pretty Captain's daughter. 

The news of my arrest filled all my family with consterna- 
tion. Maria Ivanovna had related so simply to my parents 
my strange acquaintance with Pougatcheff, that not only had 
they felt quite easy about the matter, but had often been 
obliged to laugh heartily at the whole story. My father 
would not believe that I could be implicated in an infamous 
rebellion, the aim of which was the destruction of the throne 
and the extermination of the nobles. He questioned Save- 
litch severely. My retainer did not deny that I had been 
the guest of Pougatcheff, and that the villain had acted very 
generously towards me, but he affirmed with a solemn oath 
that he had never heard a word about treason. My old 
parents became easier in mind, and waited impatiently for 
more favourable news. Maria Ivanovna, however, was in a 
state of great agitation, but she kept silent, as she was 
modest and prudent in the highest degree. 

Several weeks passed. . . . Then my father unexpectedly 
received from St. Petersburg a letter from our relative, 

Prince B . The letter was about me. After the usual 

compliments, he informed him that the suspicions which 
had been raised concerning my participation in the plots 
of the rebels, had unfortunately been shown to be only too 
well founded ; that capital punishment would have been 
meted out to me, but that the Empress^ in consideration of 
the faithful services and the grey hairs of my father, had ] 
resolved to be gracious towards his criminal son, and, 
instead of condemning him to suffer an ignominious death, 
had ordered that he should be sent to the most remote* 
part of Siberia for the rest of his life. 

This unexpected blow nearly killed my father. He lost 
his usual firmness, and his grief, usually silent, found vent 
in bitter complaints. 

THE captain's DAUGHTER. I45 

"What!" he cried, as if beside himself: *'my son has 
taken part in Pougatcheff's plots ! God of Justice, that I 
should live to see this ! The Empress spares his life ! 
Does that make it any better for me ? It is not death at 
the hands of the executioner that is so terrible : my great- 
grandfather died upon the scaffold for the defence of that 
which his conscience regarded as sacred ; ^ my father suf- 
fered with Volinsky and Khrouschtcheff.' But that a 
nobleman should be false to his oath, should associate with 
i robbers, with murderers and with runaway slaves ! . . . 
Shame and disgrace upon our race ! " 

Frightened by his despair, my mother dared not weep in 
his presence ; she endeavoured to console him by speaking 
of the uncertainty of reports, and the little dependency to 
be placed upon the opinions of other people. But my 
father was inconsolable. 

Maria Ivanovna suffered more than anybody. Being 
firmly convinced that I could have justified myself if I had 
only wished to do so, she guessed the reason of my silence, 
and considered herself the cause of my misfortune. She 
hid from everyone her tears and sufferings, and was in- 
cessantly thinking of the means by which I might be saved. 

One evening my father was seated upon the sofa turning 
over the leaves of the " Court Calendar," but his thoughts 
were far away, and the reading of the book failed to produce 
upon him its usual effect. He was whistling an old march. 
My mother was silently knitting a woollen waistcoat, and 
from time to time her tears ran down upon her work. All 
at once, Maria Ivanovna, who was also at work in the same 

One of Poushkin's ancestors was condemned to death by Peter the 

^ Chiefs of the Russian party against Biren, the unscrupulous German 
'avourite of the Empress Anne. They were put to death under circura. 
tances of great cruelty. 


146 poushkin's prose tales. 

room, declared that it was absolutely necessary that she 
should go to St. Petersburg, and she begged of my parents 
to furnish her with the means of doing so. My mother was 
very much hurt at this resolution. 

" Why do you wish to go to St. Petersburg ? " said she. 
" Is it possible, Maria Ivanovna, that you want to forsake 
us also ? " 

Maria replied that her fate depended upon this journey, 
that she was going to seek help and protection from power 
ful persons, as the daughter of a man who had fallen a 
victim to his fidelity. 

My father lowered his head j every word that recalled 
mind the supposed crime of his son, was painful to him, and 
seemed like a bitter reproach. 

" Go, my child," he said to her at last with a sigh j " we 
do not wish to stand in the way of your happiness. May 
God give you an honest man for a husband, and not an 
infamous traitor." 

He rose and left the room. 

Maria Ivanovna, left alone with my mother, confided to 
her a part of her plan. My mother, with tears in her eyes, 
embraced her and prayed to God that her undertaking 
might be crowned with success. Maria Ivanovna made all 
her preparations, and a few days afterwards she set out on 
her road with the faithful Palasha and the equally faithful 
Savehtch, who, forcibly separated from me, consoled himself 
at least with the thought that he was serving my betrothed. 
Maria Ivanovna arrived safely at Sofia, and learning that 
the Court was at that time at Tsarskoe Selo, she resolved to 
stop there. At the post-house, a small recess behind a 
partition was assigned to her. The postmaster's wife came 
immediately to chat with her, and she informed Maria that 
she was niece to one of the stove-lighters of the Court, and 
she initiated her into all the mysteries of Court life. She 


told her at what hour the Empress usually got up, when she 
took coffee, and when she went out for a walk ; what great 
lords were then with her ; what she had deigned to say the 
day before at table, and whom she had received in the 
evening. In a word, the conversation of Anna Vlassievna 
was as good as a volume of historical memoirs, and would 
be very precious to the present generation. 

Maria Ivanovna listened to her with great attention. 
They went together into the palace garden. Anna Vlassievna 
related the history of every alley and of every little bridge, 
and after seeing all that they wished to see, they returned 
to the post-house, highly satisfied with each other. 

The next day, early in the morning, Maria Ivanovna 
awoke, dressed herself, and quietly betook herself to the 
palace garden. It was a lovely morning; the sun was 
gilding the tops of the linden trees, already turning yellow 
beneath the cold breath of autumn. The broad lake 
glittered in the light. The swans, just awake, came sailing 
majestically out from under the bushes overhanging the 
banks. Maria Ivanovna walked towards a delightful lawn, 
where a monument had just been erected in honour of the 
recent victories gained by Count Peter Alexandrovitch 
Roumyanzoff.* Suddenly a little white dog of English breed 
ran barking towards her. Maria grew frightened and stood 
still. At the same moment she heard an agreeable female 
voice call out : 

*' Do not be afraid, it will not bite." 

Maria saw a lady seated on the bench opposite the 
monument. Maria sat down on the other end of the 
bench. The lady looked at her attentively ; Maria on her 
side, by a succession of stolen glances, contrived to examine 

^ A famous Russian general who distinguished himself in the wax 
against the Turks. 


the stranger from head to foot. She was attired in a white 
morning gown, a light cap, and a short mantle. She seemed 
to be about forty years of age. Her face, which was full 
and red, wore an expression of calmness and dignity, and 
her blue eyes and smiling lips had an indescribable charm 
about them. The lady was the first to break silence. 

" You are doubtless a stranger here ? " said she. 

" Yes, I only arrived yesterday from the country." 

" Did you come with your parents ? " 

" No, I came alone." 

" Alone ! But you are very young to travel alone." 

" I have neither father nor mother." 

" Perhaps you have come here on some business ? " 

"Yes, I have come to present a petition to the 

" You are an orphan : probably you have come to com- 
plain of some injustice." 

** No, I have come to ask for mercy, not justice.* 

" May I ask you who you are ? " 

" I am the daughter of Captain Mironoff." 

'* Of Captain Mironoff ! the same who was Commandant 
of one of the Orenburg fortresses ? " 

" The same, Madam." 

The lady appeared moved. 

' " Forgive me," said she, in a still kinder voice, " for in- 
teresting myself in your business ; but I am frequently at ' 
Court; explain to me the nature of your request, and 
perhaps I may be able to help you." 

Maria Ivanovna arose and thanked her respectfully. 
Everything about this unknown lady drew her towards her 
and inspired her with confidence. Maria drew from her 
pocket a folded paper and gave it to her unknown protect- 
ress, who read it to herself. 

At first she began reading with an attentive and bene- 


THE captain's DAUGHTER. I49 

volent expression ; but suddenly her countenance changed, 
and Maria, whose eyes followed all her movements, became 
frightened by the severe expression of that face, which a 
moment before had been so calm and gracious. 

"You are supplicating for Grineff?" said the lady in a 
cold tone. "The Empress cannot pardon him. He went 
over to the usurper, not out of ignorance and credulity, but 
as a depraved and dangerous scoundrel." 

" Oh ! it is not true ! " exclaimed Maria. 

*'How, not true?" replied the lady, her face flushing. 

" It is not true ; as God is above us, it is not true ! I 
know all, I will tell you everything. It was for my sake 
alone that he exposed himself to all the misfortunes that 
have overtaken him. And if he did not justify himself 
before the Commission, it was only because he did not wish 
to implicate me." 

She then related with great warmth all that is already 
known to the reader. 

The lady listened to her attentively. 

" Where are you staying ? " she asked, when Maria had 
finished her story; and hearing that it was with Anna 
Vlassievna, she added with a smile : 

" Ah, I know. Farewell ; do not speak to anybody about 
our meeting. I hope that you will not have to wait long for 
an answer to your letter." 

With these words she rose from her seat and proceeded 
down a covered alley, while Maria Ivanovna returned to 
Anna Vlassievna, filled with joyful hopes. 

Her hostess scolded her for going out so early; the 
autumn air, she said, was not good for a young girl's health. 
She brought an urn, and over a cup of tea she was about to 
begin her endless discourse about the Court, when suddenly 
a carriage with armorial bearings stopped before the door, 
and a lackey entered with the announcement that the 


Empiess summoned to her presence the daughter of Captam 

Anna Vlassievna was perfectly amazed. 

" Good Lord ! " she exclaimed : " the Empress summons 
you to Court. How did she get to know anything about 
you? And how will you present yourself before Her 
Majesty, my little mother? I do not think that you even 
know how to walk according to Court manners. . . . Shall 
I conduct you ? I could at any rate give you a little caution. 
And how can you go in your travelling dress ? Shall I send 
to the nurse for her yellow gown ? " 

The lackey announced that it was the Empress's pleasure 
that Maria Ivanovna should go alone and in the dress that 
she had on. There was nothing else to be done : Maria 
took her seat in the carriage and was driven off, accompanied 
by the counsels and blessings of Anna Vlassievna. 

Maria felt that our fate was about to be decided; her 
heart beat violently. In a few moments the carriage stopped 
af the gate of the palace. Maria descended the steps with 
trembling feet. The doors flew open before her. She 
traversed a large number of empty but magnificent rooms, 
guided by the lackey. At last, coming to a closed door, he 
informed her that she would be announced directly, and 
then left her by herself. 

The thought of meeting the Empress face to face so 
terrified her, that she could scarcely stand upon her feet. 
In about a minute the door was opened, and she was 
ushered into the Empress's boudoir. 

The Empress was seated at her toilette-table, surrounded 
by a number of Court ladies, who respectfully made way for 
Maria Ivanovna. The Empress turned round to her with 
an amiable smile, and Maria recognized in her the lady with 
whom she had spoken so freely a few minutes before. The 
lEmpress bade her approach, and said with a smile ; 


" I am glad that I am able to keep my word and grant 
your petition. Your business is arranged. I am convinced 
of the innocence of your lover. Here is a letter which you 
will give to your future father-in-law." 

Maria took the letter with trembling hands and, bursting 
into tears, fell at the feet of the Empress, who raised her up 
and kissed her upon the forehead. 

" I know that you are not rich," said she ; " but I owe a 
debt to the daughter of Captain Mironoff. Do not be un- 
easy about the future. I will see to your welfare." 

After having consoled the poor orphan in this way, the 
Empress allowed her to depart. Maria left the palace in 
the same carriage that had brought her thither. Anna 
Vlassievna, who was impatiently awaiting her return, over- 
whelmed her with questions, to which Maria returned very 
vague answers. Although dissatisfied with the weakness ot 
her memory, Anna Vlassievna ascribed it to her provincial 
bashfulness, and magnanimously excused her. The same 
day Maria, without even desiring to glance at St. Petersburg, 
set out on her return journey. 

# # # * * 

The memoirs of Peter Andreitch GrinefF end here. But 
from a family tradition we learn that he was released from 
his imprisonment towards the end of the year 1774 by order 
of the Empress, and that he was present at the execution of 
Pougatcheff^ who recognized him in the crowd and nodded 
to him with his head, which, a few moments afterwards, was 
shown lifeless and bleeding to the people.^ Shortly after- 
wards, Peter Andreitch and Maria Ivanovna were married. 
Their descendants still flourish in the government of Sim- 
birsk. About thirty versts from , there is a village 

^ It is said that even at the present day the peasants in the south-east 
of Russia are firmly convinced that PougatchefiF was really the Emperor 
Peter HI., and pot ao impostor. 


belonging to ten landholders. In the house of one of 
them, there may still be seen, framed and glazed, the auto- 
graph letter of Catherine II. It is addressed to the father 
of Peter Andreitch, and contains the justification of his son, 
and a tribute of praise to the heart and intellect of Captain 
Mironoff 's daughter. 




SOME years ago, there lived on one of his estates a 
Russian gentleman of the old school named Kirila 
Petrovitch Troekouroff. His Wealth, distinguished birth, 
and connections gave him great weight in the government 
where his property was situated. Completely spoilt by his 
surroundings, he was in the habit of giving way to every 
impulse of his passionate nature, to every caprice of his 
sufficiently narrow mind. The neighbours were ready to 
gratify his -slightest whim ; the -government officials trembled 
at his name. Kirila Petrovitch accepted all these signs of 
servility as homage due to him. His house was always full 
of guests, ready to amuse his lordship's leisure, and to join 
his noisy and sometimes boisterous mirth. Nobody dared 
to refuse his invitations or, on certain days, omit to put in 
an appearance at the village of Pokrovskoe. Kirila Petro; 
vitch was very hospitable, and in spite of the extraordinary 
vigour of his constitution, he suffered two or three times a 
week from surfeit, and became tipsy every evening. 

Very few of the young women of his household escaped 
the amorous attentions of this old man of fifty. Moreover, 
in one of the wings of his house lived sixteen girls engaged 
in needlework. The windows of this wing were protected 
by wooden bars, the doors were kept locked, and the keys 
retained by Kirila Petrovitch. The young recluses at an 

156 poushkin's prose tales. 

appointed hour went into the garden for a walk under the 
surveillance of two old women. From time to time Kirila 
Petrovitch married some of them off, and new comers took 
their places. He treated his peasants and domestics in a 
severe and arbitrary fashion, in spite of which they were 
very devoted to him : they loved to boast of the wealth and 
influence of their master, and in their turn took many a 
liberty with their neighbours, trusting to his powerful 

The ordinary occupatiohs of Troekouroff consisted in 
driving over his vast domains, passing his nights in pro- 
longed revels, and playing practical jokes, specially invented 
from time to time, the victims being generally new acquain- 
tances, though his old friends did not always escape, one 
only— Andrei Gavrilovitch Doubrovsky — excepted. 

This Doubrovsky, a retired lieutenant of the Guards, was 
his nearest neighbour, and possessed seventy serfs. Troe- 
kouroff,' haughty in his dealings with people of the highest 
rank, respected Doubrovsky, i^^spite of his humble fortune. 
They had been friends in the service, and Troekouroff 
knew from experience the impatience and decision of his 
character. The celebrated events of the year 1762 ^ sepa- 
rated them for a long time. Troekouroff, a relative of the 
Princess Dashkoff,'^ received rapid promotion ; Doubrovsky 
with his reduced fortune, was compelled to leave the service 
and settle down in the only village that remained to him. 
Kirila Petrovitch, hearing of this, offered him his protec- 
tion ; but Doubrovsky thanked him and remained poor and 
independent. Some years later, Troekouroff, having ob- 
tained the rank of general, and retired to his estate, they 
met again and were delighted with each other. After that 

^ Alluding to the deposition and assassination of Peter III., and the 
accession of his wife Catherine II. 
* One of Catherine's partisans in the revolution of 1762. 


they saw each other every day, and Kirila Petrovitch, who 
had never deigned to visit anybody in his life, came quite 
as a matter of course to the little house of his old comrade. 
Being of the same age, born in the same rank of society, 
and having received the same education, they resembled 
each other somewhat in character and inclinations. In 
some respects their fates had been similar : both had 
married for love, both had soon become widowers, and both 
had been left with an only child. The son of Doubrovsky 
was studying at St.\ Petersburg ; the daughter of Kirila 
Petrovitch grew up under the eyes of her father, and 
TroekourofF often said to Doubrovsky : 

*' Listen, brother Andrei Gavrilovitch ; if your Volodka ^ 
should be successful, I will give him Masha ^ for his wife, in 
spite of his being as naked as a goshawk." 

Andrei Gavrilovitch used to shake his head, and gene- 
rally replie'd : ' 

" No, Kirila Petrovitch ; my Volodka is no match for 
Maria Kirilovna. A poor petty noble, such as he, would 
do better to marry a poor girl of the- petty nobililty, and be 
the head of his house, rather than become the bailiff of 
some spoilt little woman." 

Everybody envied the good understanding existing 
between the haughty Troekouroff and his poor neighbour, 
and wondered at the boldness of the latter when, at the 
table of Kirila Petrovitch, he expressed his own opinion 
frankly, and did not hesitate to maintain an opinion con- 
trary to that of his host Some attempted to imitate him 
and ventured to overstep the limits of the license accorded 
them ; but Kirila Petrovitch taught them such a lesson, that 
they never afterwards felt any desire to repeat the experi- 
ment. Doubrovsky alone remained beyond the range of 

^ Diminutive of Vladimir. * Diminutive of Maria or Mary. 

iS8 poushkin's prose tales. 

this general law. But an unexpected incident deranged 
and altered all this. i 

One day, in the beginning of autumn, Kirila Petro- 
vitch prepared to go out hunting. Orders had been given 
the evening before for the huntsmen and gamekeepers to be 
ready at five o'clock in the morning. The tent and kitchen 
had been sent on beforehand to the place where Kirila 
Petrovitch was to dine. The host and his guests went to 
the kennel, where more than five hundred harriers and grey- 
hounds lived in luxury and warmth, praising the generosity 
of Kirila Petrovitch in their canine language. There was 
also a hospital for the sick dogs, under the care of staff- 
surgeon Timoshka, and a separate place where the bitches 
brought forth and suckled their pups. Kirila Petrovitch 
was proud of this magnificent establishment, and never 
missed an opportunity of boasting about it,before his guests,| 
each of whom had inspected it at least twenty times. H 
walked through the kennel, surrounded by his guests an 
accompanied by Timoshka and the head gamekeeper; 
pausing before some of the compartments, either to ask 
after the health of some sick dog, to make some observa- 
tion more or less just and severe, or to call some dog to him 
by name and speak caressingly to it. The guests con- 
sidered it their duty to go into raptures over Kirila Petro- 
vitch's kennel; Doubrovsky alone remained silent and 
frowned. He was an ardent sportsman ; but his modest 
fortune only permitted him to keep two harriers and one 
greyhound, and he could not restrain a certain feeling of 
envy at the sight of this magnificent establishment. 

" Why do you frown, brother ? " Kirila Petrovitch asked 
him. ** Does not my kennel please you ? " 

"No," replied Doubrovsky abruptly: "the kennel is 
marvellous, but I doubt whether your people live as well as 
your dogs." 


One of the gamekeepers took offence. 

" Thanks to God and our master, we have nothing to 
complain of," said he; "but if the truth must be told, 
there are certain nobles who would not do badly if they 
exchanged their manor-house for one of the compart- 
ments of this kennel: they would be better fed and feel 

Kirila Petrovitch burst out laughing at this insolent 
remark from his servant, and the guests followed his 
example, although they felt that the gamekeeper's joke 
might apply to them also. Doubrovsky turned pale and 
said not a word. At that moment a basket, containing 
some new-born puppies, was brought to Kirila Petrovitch ; 
he chose two out of the litter and ordered the rest to be 
drowned. In the meantime Andrei Gavrilovitch had dis- 
appeared without anybody having observed it. 

On returning with his guests from the kennel, Kirila 
Petrovitch sat down to supper, and it was only then that he 
noticed the absence Qf Doubrovsky. His people informed 
him that Andrei Gavrilovitch had gone home. Troekouroff 
immediately gave orders that he was to be overtaken and 
brought back without fail. He had never gone hunt- 
ing without Dpubrovsky, who was a fine and experienced 
connoisseur in all matters relating to dogs, and an infallible 
umpire in all possible disputes connected with sport. The 
servant who had galloped after him, returned while they 
were still seated at table, and informed his master that 
Andrei Gavrilovitch had refused to listen to him and would 
not return. Kirila Petrovitch, as usual, was heated with 
liquor, and becoming very angry, he sent the same servant 
a second time to tell Andrei Gavrilovitch that if he did not 
return at once to spend the night at Pokrovskoe, he, 
Troekouroff, would break off all friendly intercourse with 
him for ever. The servant galloped off again. Kirila 


Petrovitch rose from the table, dismissed his guests *^nd 
retired to bed. 

The next day his first question was : "Is Andrei Gavrilo- 
vitch here?" A triangular-shaped letter was handed to 
him. Kirila Petrovitch ordered his secretary to read it 
aloud, and the following is what he heard : 

" Gracious Sir ! 

" I do not intend to return to Pokrovskoe until 
you send the dog-feeder Paramoshka to me with an 
apology : I shall retain the liberty of punishing or for- 
giving him. I cannot put up with jokes from your servants, 
nor do I intend to put up with them from you, as I am not 
a buffoon, but a gentleman of ancient family. I remain your 
obedient servant, 

" Andrei DouBROVSKY." 

According to present ideas of etiquette, such a letter 
would be very unbecoming ; it irritated Kirila Petrovitch, 
not by its strange style, but by its substance. 

'*What!" exclaimed Troekouroff, springing barefooted 
out of bed ; " send my people to him with an apology ! 
And he to be at liberty to punish or pardon them ! What 
can he be thinking of? Does he know with whom he is 
dealing ? I'll teach him a lesson ! He shall know what it is 
to oppose Troekouroff ! " • 

Kirila Petrovitch dressed himself and set out for the hunt 
with his usual ostentation. But the chase was not success- 
ful ; during the whole of the day one hare only was seen, 
and that escaped. The dinner in the field, under the tent, 
was also a failure, or at least it was not to the taste of Kirila 
Petrovitch, who struck the cook, abused the guests, and on 
the return journey rode intentionally, with all his suite, 
through the fields of Doubrovsky. 




SEVERAL days passed, and the animosity between the 
two neighbours did not subside. Andrei Gavrilovitch 
returned no more to Pokrovskoe, and Kirila Petrovitch, 
feeling dull without him, vented his spleen in the most 
insulting expressions, which, thanks to the zeal of the 
neighbouring nobles, reached Doubrovsky revised and aug- 
mented. - A fresh incident destroyed the last hope of a 

One day, Doubrovsky was going the round of his little 
estate, when, on approaching a grove of birch trees, he 
heard the blows of an axe, and a minute afterwards the 
crash of a falling tree ; he hastened to the spot and found 
some of the Pokrovskoe peasants stealing his wood. Seeing 
him, they took to flight ; but Doubrovsky, with the assis- 
tance of his coachman, caught two of them, whom he 
brought home bound. Moreover, two horses, belonging to 
the enemy, fell into the hands of the conqueror. 

Doubrovsky was exceedingly angry. Before this, Troe- 
kouroff's people, who were well-known robbers, had never 
dared to play tricks within the boundaries of his property, 
being aware of the friendship which existed between him and 
their master. Doubrovsky now perceived that they were 
taking advantage of the rupture which had occurred between 
him and his neighbour, and he resolved, contrary to all ideas 
Z)f the rules of war, to teach his prisoners a lesson with the 
rods which they themselves had collected in his grove, and to 


send the horses to work and to incorporate them with his 
own cattle. 

The news of these proceedings reached the ears of Kirila 
Petrovitch that very same day. He was almost beside him- 
self with rage, and in the first moment of his passion, he 
wanted to take all his domestics and make an attack upon 
Kistenevka (for such was the name of his neighbour's 
village), raze it to the ground, and besiege the landholder in 
his own residence. Such exploits were not rare with him ; 
but his thoughts soon took another direction. Pacing with 
heavy steps up and down the hall, he glanced casually out 
of the window, and saw a troika in the act of stopping at his 
gate. A man in a leather travelling- cap and a frieze cloak 
stepped out of the telega and proceeded towards the wing 
occupied by the bailiff. Troekouroff recognized the assessor 
Shabashkin, and gave orders for him to be sent in to him. A 
minute afterwards Shabashkin stood before Kirila Petrovitch, 
and bowing repeatedly, waited respectfully to hear what he 
had to say to him. 

"Good day — what is your name?" said Troekouroff: 
*' Why have you come ? " 

" I was going to the town. Your Excellency," replied Sha- 
bashkin, " and I called on Ivan Demyanoff to know if there 
were any orders." 

*' You have come at a very opportune moment — what is 
your name ? I have need of you. Take a glass of brandy 
and listen to me." 

Such a friendly welcome agreeably surprised the assessor : 
he decHned the brandy, and listened to Kirila Petrovitch 
with all possible attention. 

" I have a neighbour," said Troekouroff, " a small pro- 
prietor, a rude fellow, and I want to take his property from 
him. . . . What do you think of that ? " 

" Your Excellency, are there any documents — ? " 


" Don't talk nonsense, brother/ what documents are you 
talking about ? The business in this case is to take his pro- 
perty away from him, with or without documents. But 
stop! This estate belonged to us at one time. It was 
bought from a certain Spitsin, and then sold to Doubrov- 
sky's father. Can't you make a case out of that ? " 

"It would be difficult, Your Excellency: probably the 
sale was effected in strict accordance with the law." 
** Think, brother; try your hardest." 
"If, for example, Your Excellency could in some way 
obtam from your neighbour the contract, in virtue of which 
he holds possession of his estate, then, without doubt—" 

"I understand, but that is the misfortune : all his papers 
were burnt at the time of the fire." 

" What ! Your Excellency, his papers were burnt ? What 
could be better? In that case, take proceedings according 
to law; without the slightest doubt you will receive com 
plete satisfaction." 

" You think so? Well, see to it ; I rely upon your zeal 
and you can rest assured of my gratitude." 

Shabashkin, bowing almost to the ground, took his depar- 
ture; from that day he began to devote all his energies to 
the busmess intrusted to him and, thanks to his prompt 
action, exactly a fortnight afterwards Doubrovsky received 
from the town a summons to appear in court and to produce 
the documents, in virtue of which he held possession of the 
village of Kistenevka. 

Andrei Gavrilovitch, greatly astonished by this unexpected 
request wrote that very same day a somewhat rude reply in 
which he explained that the village of Kistenevka became 
his on the death of his father, that he held it by right of in 
heritance, that Troekouroff had nothing to do with the 

th:ifS:'"^'^'"^'^''^-"'^™^''^- »f '«-"«• i» addressing 



matter, and that all adventitious pretensions to his property 
were nothing but the outcome of chicanery and roguery. 
Doubrovsky had no experience in litigation. He generally 
followed the dictates of common sense, a guide rarely safe, 
and nearly always insufficient. 

This letter produced a very agreeable impression on the 
mind of Shabashkin ; he saw, in the first place, that Dou- 
Drovsky knew very little about legal matters ; and, in the 
second, that it would not be difficult to place such a 
passionate and indiscreet man in a very disadvantageous 

Andrei Gavrilovitch, after a more careful consideration of 
the questions addressed to him, saw the necessity of reply- 
ing more circumstantially. He wrote a sufficiently pertinent 
paper, but in the end this proved insufficient also. 

The business dragged on. Confident in his own right, 
Andrei Gavrilovitch troubled himself very little about the 
matter; he had neither the inclination nor the means 
to scatter money about him, and he began to deride the 
mercenary consciences of the scribbling fraternity. The 
idea of being made the victim of treachery never entered 
his head. Troekouroff, on his side, thought as little of win- 
ning the case he had devised. Shabashkin took the matter 
in hand for him, acting in his name, threatening and bribing 
the judges and quoting and interpreting the ordinances in 
the most distorted manner possible. 

At last, on the 9th day of P'ebruary, in the year 18 — , 
Doubrovsky received, through the town police, an invitation 
to appear at the district court to hear the decision in the 
matter of the disputed property between himself — Lieutenant 
Doubrovsky, and General-in-Chief Troekouroff, and to sign 
his approval or disapproval of the verdict. That same day 
Doubrovsky set out for the town. On the road he was over- 
taken by Troekouroff. They glared haughtily at each 



other, and Doubrovsky observed a malicious smile upon the 
face of his adversary. 

Arriving in town, Andrei Gavrilovitch stopped at the 
house of an acquaintance, a merchant, with whom he spent 
the night, and the next morning he appeared before the 
Court. Nobody paid any attention to him. After him 
arrived Kirila Petrovitch. The members of the Court 
received him with every manifestation of the deepest sub- 
mission, and an armchair was brought to him out of 
consideration for his rank-, years and corpulence. He sat 
down j Andrei Gavrilovitch stood leaning against the wall. 
A deep silence ensued, and the secretary began in a 
sonorous voice to read the decree of the Court. 

When the secretary had ceased reading, the assessor arose 
and, with a low bow, turned to Troekouroff, inviting him to 
sign the paper which he held out to him. Troekouroff, 
quite triumphant, took the pen and wrote beneath the 
decision of the Court his complete satisfaction. 

It was now Doubrovsky's turn. The secretary handed 
the paper to* him, but Doubrovsky stood immovable, with 
his head bent down. The secretary repeated his invitation : 
"To subscribe his full and complete satisfaction, or his 
manifest dissatisfaction, if he felt in his conscience that his 
case was just, and intended to appeal against the decision of 
the Court." 

Doubrovsky remained silent ... Suddenly he raised 
his head, his eyes sparkled, he stamped his foot, pushed 
back the secretary with such force, that he fell, seized the 
inkstand, hurled it at the assessor, and cried in a wild 
voice : 

*' What ! you don't respect the Church of God ! Away, 
you race of Shem ! " 

Then turning to Kirila Petrovitch : 

" Has such a thing ever been heard of, Your Excel- 


lency ? " he continued. " The huntsmen lead greyhounds 
into the Church of God ! The dogs are running about the 
church ! I will teach them a lesson presently ! " 

Everybody was terrified. The guards rushed in on hear- 
ing the noise, and with difficulty overpowered him. They 
led him out and placed him in a sledge. Troekouroff 
went out after him, accompanied by the whole Court. 
Doubrovsky's sudden madness had produced a deep 
impression upon his imagination; the judges, who had 
counted upon his gratitude, were not honoured by receiving 
a single affable word from him. He returned immediately 
to Pokrovskoe, secretly tortured by his conscience, and not 
at all satisfied with the triumph of his hatred. Doubrovsky, 
in the meantime, lay in bed. The district doctor — not 
altogether a blockhead — bled him and applied leeches and 
mustard-plasters to him. Towards evening he began to 
feel better, and the next day he was taken to Kistenevka, 
which scarcely belonged to him any longer. 



SOME time elapsed, but the health of the stricken 
Doubrovsky showed no signs of improvement. It is 
true that the fits of madness did not recur, but his strength 
became visibly less. He forgot his former occupations, 
rarely left his room, and for days together remained absorbed 
in his own reflections. Egorovna, a kind-hearted old woman 
who hard once tended his son, now became his nurse. She 
waited upon him like a child, reminded him when it was 
time to eat and sleep, fed him and even put him to bed. 
Andrei Gavrilovitch obeyed her, and had no intercourse with 
anybody else. He was not in a condition to think about his 
affairs or to look after his property, and Egorovna saw the 
necessity of informing young Doubrovsky, who was then 
serving in one of the regiments of Foot Guards stationed in 
St. Petersburg, of everything that had happened. And so, 
tearing a leaf from the account-book, she dictated to 
Khariton the cook, the only literate person in Kistenevka, a 
letter, which she sent off that same day to the town post. 

But it is time for the reader to become acquainted with 
the real hero of this story. 

Vladimir Doubrovsky had been educated at the cadet 
school and, on leaving it, had entered the Guards as sub- 
lieutenant. His father spared nothing that was necessary to 
enable him to Uve in a becoming manner, and the young 
man received from home a great deal more than he had any 
right to expect. Being imprudent and ambitious, he indulged 
in extravagant habits, ran into debt, and troubled himself 

1 68 poushkin's prose tales. 

very little about the future. Occasionally the thought 
crossed his mind that sooner or later he would be obliged to 
take to himself a rich bride. 

One evening, when several officers were spending a few 
hours with him, lolling on the couches and smoking pipes 
with amber mouth-pieces, Grisha,^ his valet, handed him a 
letter, the address and seal of which immediately attracted 
the young man's attention. He hastily opened it and read 
the following : 

*^Our Lord Vladimir Andreivitch, I, your old nurse, 
venture to inform you of the health of your papa. He is 
very poorly, sometimes he wanders in his talk, and the 
whole day long he sits like a stupid child — but life and 
death are in the hands of God. Come to us, my bright 
little falcon, and we will send horses to meet you at 
Pesotchnoe. We hear that the Court is going to hand us 
over to Kirila Petrovitch Troekouroff, because it is said that 
we belong to him, although we have always belonged to you, 
and have always heard so ever since we can remember. 
You might, living in St. Petersburg, inform our Father the 
Czar of this, and he will not allow us to be wronged. It has 
been raining here for the last fortnight, and the shepherd 
Rodia died about Michaelmas Day. I send my maternal 
blessing to Grisha. Does he serve you well? I remain 
your faithful nurse, 

" Arina Egorovna .Bouzireva." 

Vladimir Doubrovsky read these somewhat unintelligible 
lines several times with great agitation. He had lost his 
mother during his childhood, and, hardly knowing his 
father, had been taken to St. Petersburg when he was eight 
years of age. In spite of that, he was romantically attached 

^ Diminutive of Gregory. 


to his father, and having had but little opportunity of enjoy- 
ing the pleasures of family life, he loved it all the more in 

The thought of losing his father pained him exceedingly, 
and the condition of the poor invalid, which he guessed 
from his nurse's letter, horrified him. He imagined his 
father, left in an out-of-the-way village, in the hands of a 
stupid old woman and her fellow servants, threatened by 
some misfortune, and expiring without help in the mid-'^t of 
tortures both mental and physical. Vladimir Andre/.vitch 
reproached himself with criminal neglect. Not having 
received any news of his father for a long time, he had not 
even thought of making inquiries about him, supposing him 
to be travelling about or engaged in the management of his 
estate. That same evening he began to take the necessary 
steps for obtaining leave of absence, and two days afterwards 
he set out in the stage coach, accompanied by his faithful 

Vladimir Andreivitch neared the post station at which he 
was to take the turning for Kistenevka. His heart was filled 
with sad forebodings ; he feared that he would no longer 
find his father aHve. He pictured to himself the dreary kind 
of life that awaited him in the village : the loneliness, 
solitude, poverty and cares of business of which he knew 
nothing. Arriving at the station, he went to the postmaster 
and asked for fresh horses. The postmaster, having inquired 
where he was going, informed him that horses sent from 
Kistenevka had been waiting for him for the last four days. 
Soon appeared before Vladimir Andreivitch the old coach- 
man Anton, who used formerly to take him over the stables 
and look after his pony. Anton's eyes filled with tears on 
seeing his young master, and bowing to the ground, he told 
him that his old master was still alive, and then hastened to 

170 poushkin\s prose tales. 

harness the horses. Vladimir Andreivitch declined the 
proffered breakfast, and hastened to depart. Anton drove 
him along the cross country roads, and conversation began 
between them. 

" Tell me, if you please, Anton, what is this business 
between my father and Troekouroff?" 

" God knows, my little father Vladimir Andreivitch ; our 
master, they say, had a dispute with Kirila Petrovitch, and 
the latter summoned him before the judge, though very 
often he himself is the judge. It is not the business of 
servants to discuss the affairs of their masters, but it was 
useless of your father to contend against Kirila Petrovitch : 
better had it been if he had not opposed him." 

" It §eems, then, that this Kirila Petrovitch does just 
what he pleases among you ? " 

" He certainly does, master : he does not care a rap for 
the assessor, and the chief of police runs on errands for 
him. The nobles repair to his house to do homage to him, 
for as the proverb says : * Where there is a trough, there 
will the pigs be also.' " 

*' Is it true that he wants to take our estate from us ? " 

"Oh, master, that is what we have heard. A few days 
ago, the sexton from Pokrovskoe said at the christening 
held at the house of our overseer: 'You do well to enjoy 
yourselves while you are able, for you'll not have much 
chance of doing so when Kirila Petrovitch takes you in 
hand j ' and Nikita the blacksmith said to him : *Savelitch, 
don't distress your fellow sponsor, don't disturb the guests. 
Kirila Petrovitch is what he is, and Andrei Gavrilovitch is 
the same — and we are all God's and the Czar's.' But you 
cannot sew a button upon another person's mouth." 

" Then you do not wish to pass into the possession of 
Troekouroff? " 

** Into the possession of Kirila Petrovitch ! The Lord 


save and preserve us ! His own people fare badly enough, 
and if he got possession of strangers, he would strip off, not 
only their skin, but their flesh also. No, may God grant 
long life to Andrei Gavrilovitch ; and if God should take 
him to Himself, we want nobody but you, our benefactor. 
Do not give us up, and we will stand by you." 

With these words, Anton flourished his whip, shook the 
reins, and the horses broke into a brisk trot. 

Touched by the devotion of the old coachman, Dou- 
brovsky became silent and gave himself up to his own 
reflections. More than an hour passed; suddenly Grisha 
roused him by exclaiming : '* There is Pokrovskoe ! " Dou- 
brovsky raised his head. They were just then driving along 
the, bank of a broad lake, out of which flowed a small 
stream winding among the hills. On one of these, above a 
thick green wood, rose the green roof and belvedere of a. 
huge stone house, together with a five-domed church with 
an ancient belfry ; round about were scattered the village 
huts with their gardens and wells. Doubrovsky recognized 
these places ; he remembered that on that very hill he had 
played with little Masha Troekouroff, who was two years 
younger than he, and who even then gave promise of being 
very beautiful. He wanted to make inquiries of Anton 
about her, but a certain bashfulness restrained him. 

On approaching the castle, he perceived a white dress 
flitting among the trees in the garden. At that moment 
Anton whipped the horses, and impelled by that vanity, 
common to village coachmen as to drivers in general, he 
drove at full speed over the bridge and past the garden. 
On emerging from the village, they ascended the hill, and 
Vladimir perceived the little wood of birch trees, and to the 
left, in an open place, a small grey house with a red roof. 
His heart began to beat — before him was Kisteuevka, the 
humble abode of his father. 


About ten minutes afterwards he drove into the courtyard 
He looked around him with indescribable emotion : twelve 
years had elapsed since he last saw his native place. The 
little birches, which had just then been planted near the 
wooden fence, had now become tall trees with long branches. 
The courtyard, formerly ornamented with three regular 
flower-beds, between which ran a broad^ path carefully 
swept, had been converted into a meadow, in which was 
grazing a tethered horse. The dogs began to bark, but 
recognizing Anton, they became silent and commenced 
wagging their shaggy tails. The servants came rushing out 
of the house and surrounded the young master with loud 
manifestations of joy. It was with difficulty that he was 
able to make his way through the enthusiastic crowd. He 
ran up the well-worn steps ; in the vestibule he was met by 
Egorovna, who tearfully embraced him. 

" How do you do, how do you do, nurse ? " he repeated, 
pressing the good old woman to his heart. "And my 
father ? Where is he ? How is he ? " 

At that moment a tall old man, pale and thin, in a 
dressing-gown and cap, entered the room, dragging one 
foot after the other with difficulty. 

"Where is Volodka?" said he in a weak voice, and 
Vladimir embraced his father with affectionate emotion. 

The joy proved too much for the sick man ; he grew 
weak, his legs gave way beneath him, and he would have 
fallen, if his son had not held him up. 

** Why did you get out of bed ?" said Egorovna to him. 
" He cannot stand upon his feet, and yet he wants to do 
the same as other people." 

The old man was carried back to his bedroom. He tried 
to converse with his son, but he could not collect his 
thoughts, and his words had no connection with each other. 
He became silent and fell into a kind of somnolence. 


Vladimir was struck by his condition. He installed himself 
in the bedroom and requested to be left alone with his 
I ; father. The household obeyed, and then all turned towards 
ijGrisha and led him away to the servants' hall, where they 
j I gave him a hearty welcome according to the rustic custom, 
lithe while they wearied him with questions and compli- 



A FEW days after his arrival, young Doubrovsky 
wished to turn his attention to business, but his 
father was not in a condition to give him the necessary 
explanations, and Andrei Gavrilovitch had no confidential 
adviser. Examining his papers, Vladimir only found the 
first letter of the assessor and a rough copy of his father's 
reply to it. From these he could not obtain any clear idea 
of the lawsuit, and he determined to await the result, trusting 
in the justice of his father's cause. 

Meanwhile the health of Andrei Gavrilovitch grew worse 
from hour to hour. Vladimir foresaw that his end was not 
far off, and he never left the old man, now fallen into com- 
plete childishness. 

In the meantime the period of delay had expired and no 
appeal had been presented. Kistenevka therefore belonged 
to Troekouroff. Shabashkin came to him, and with a pro- 
fusion of salutations and congratulations, inquired when His 
Excellency intended to enter into possession of his newly- 
acquired property — would he go and do so himself, or 
would he deign to commission somebody else to act as hisj 
representative ? 

Kirila Petrovitch felt troubled. By nature he was not^ 
avaricious ; his desire for revenge had carried him too far, 
and he now felt the rebukings of his conscience. He knew 
in what condition his adversary, the old comrade of his 
youth, lay, and his victory brought no joy to his heart. He 
glared sternly at Shabashkin, seeking for some pretext to 


vent his displeasure upon him, but not finding a suitable 
lone, he said to him in an angry tone : 

" Be off ! I do not want you ! " 

Shabashkin, seeing that he was not in a good humour, 
bowed and hastened to withdraw, and Kirila Petrovitch, left 
alone, began to pace up and down, whistling: "Thunder of 
victory resound ! " which, with him, was always a sure sign 
of unusual agitation of mind. 

At last he gave orders for the droshky ^ to be got ready, 
wrapped himself up warmly (it was already the end of 
September), and, himself holding the reins, drove out of the 

He soon caught sight of the house of Andrei Gavrilovitch. 
Contradictory feelings filled his soul. Satisfied vengeance 
and love of power had, to a certain extent, deadened his 
more noble sentiments, but at last these latter prevailed. 
He resolved to effect a reconciliation with his old neighbour, 
to efface the traces of the quarrel and restore to him his 
property. Having eased his soul with this good intention, 
Kirila Petrovitch set off at a gallop towards the residence 
of his neighbour and drove straight into the courtyard. 

At that moment the invalid was sitting at his bedroom 
(vindow. He recognized Kirila Petrovitch— and his face 
issumed an expression of terrible emotion : a livid flush re- 
placed his usual pallor, his eyes gleamed and he uttered a 
few unintelligible sounds. His son, who was sitting there 
xamining the account books, raised his head and was struck 
ay the change in his father's condition. The sick man 
Dointed with his finger towards the courtyard with an expres- 
sion of rage and horror. At that moment the voice and 
leavy tread of Egorovna were heard : 

** Master, master! Kirila Petrovitch has come! Kirila 

^ A low four-wheeled carriage. 


Petrovitch is on the steps ! " she cried. . . . ** Lord God ! 
What is the matter ? What has happened to him ? " 

Andrei Gavrilovitch had hastily gathered up the skirts of 
his dressing-gown and was preparing to rise from his arm- 
chair. He succeeded in getting upon his feet — and then 
suddenly fell. His son rushed towards him ; the old man 
lay insensible and without breathing : he had been attacked 
by paralysis. 

" Quick, quick ! hasten to the town for a doctor ! " cried 

" Kirila Petrovitch is asking for you," said a servant, 
entering the room. 

Vladimir gave him a terrible look. 

" Tell Kirila Petrovitch to take himself off as quickly as 
possible, before I have him turned out — go ! " 

The servant gladly left the room to execute his master's 
orders. Egorovna raised her hands to heaven. 

" Little father," she exclaimed in a piping voice," you 
will lose your head ! Kirila Petrovitch will eat us all 

" Silence, nurse," said Vladimir angrily : " send Anton at 
once to the town for a doctor." 

Egorovna left the room. There was nobody in the ante- 
chamber ; all the domestics had run out into the courtyard 
to look at Kirila Petrovitch. She went out on the steps and 
heard the servant deliver his young master's reply. Kirila 
Petrovitch heard it, seated in the droshky ; his face be- 
came darker than night ; he smiled contemptuously, looked 
threateningly at the assembled domestics, and then drove 
slowly out of the courtyard. He glanced up at the window 
where, a minute before, Andrei Gavrilovitch had been 
sitting, but he was no longer there. The nurse remained 
standing on the steps, forgetful of her master's injunctions. 
The domestics were noisily talking of what had just occurred 


Suddenly Vladimir appeared in the midst of them, and said 
abruptly : 

"There is no need for a doctor — my father is dead ! " 
General consternation followed these words. The domes- 
tics rushed to the room of their old master. He was lying 
in the armchair in which Vladimir had placed him ; his right 
arm hung down to the ground, his head was bent forward 
upon his chest — there was not the least sign of life in his 
body, which, not yet cold, was already disfigured by death, 
Egorovna set up a howl. The domestics surrounded the 
corpse, which was left to their care, washed it, dressed it in 
a uniform made in the year 1797, amd laid it out on the same 
,table at which for so many years they had waited upon their 




THE funeral took place the third day. The body of the 
poor old man lay in the coffin, covered with a shroud 
and surrounded by candles. The dining-room was filled 
with domestics, ready to carry out the corpse. Vladimir 
and the servants raised the coffin. The priest went in front, 
followed by the clerk, chanting the prayers for the dead. 
The master of Kistenevka crossed the threshold of his house 
for the last time. The coffin was carried through the wood 
— the church lay just behind it. The day was clear and 
cold ; the autumn leaves were falling from the trees. On 
emerging from the wood, they saw before them the wooden 
church of Kistenevka and the cemetery shaded by old lime 
trees. There reposed the body of Vladimir's mother ; there, 
be'^ide her tomb, a new grave had been dug the day before. 
The church was full of the Kistenevka peasantry, come to 
render the last homage to their master. Young Doubrovsky 
stood in the chancel ; he neither wept nor prayed, but the 
expression of his face was terrible. The sad ceremony came 
to an end. Vladimir approached first to take leave of the 
corpse, after him came the domestics. The lid was brought 
and nailed upon the coffin. The women wept aloud, and 
the men frequently wiped away their tears with their fists. 
Vladimir and three of the servants carried the coffin to the 
cemetery, accompanied by the whole village. The coffin 
was lowered into the grave, all present threw upon it a hand- 
ful of earth, the pit was filled up, the crowd saluted for the 
last time and then dispersed. Vladimir hastily departed, 


got ahead of everybody, and disappeared into the Kistenevka 

Egorovna, in the name of her master, invited the pope 
and all the clergy to a funeral dinner, informing them that 
her young master did not intend being present. 

Then Father Anissim, his wife Fedorovna and the clerk 
took their way to the manor-house, discoursing with Egorovna 
upon the virtues of the deceased and upon what, in all pro- 
bability, awaited his heir. The visit of Troekouroff and the 
reception given to him were already known to the whole 
neighbourhood, and the local politicians predicted that 
serious consequences would result from it. 

" What is to be, will be," said the pope's wife : " but it 
will be a pity if Vladimir Andreivitch does not become our 
master. He is a fine young fellow, there is no denying 

** And who is to be our master if he is not to be ? " inter- 
rupted Egorovna. " Kirila Petrovitch need not put himself 
out — he has not got a coward to deal with. My young 
falcon will know how to defend himself, and with God's 
help, he will not lack friends. Kirila Petrovitch is too 
overweening ; and yet he slunk away with his tail between 
his legs when my Grishka ^ cried out to him : * Be off, you 
old cur ! Clear out of the place ! ' " 

" Oh ! Egorovna," said the clerk, " however could he 
bring his tongue to utter such words ? I think I would rather 
bring myself to face the devil, than look askant at Kirila 
Petrovitch. As you look at him, you become terrified, and 
your very backbone seems to curve ! " 

" Vanity, vanity ! " said the priest : " the service for the 
dead will some day be chanted for Kirila Petrovitch, as to- 
day for Andrei Gavrilovitch ; the funeral may perhaps be 

* Diminutive of Gregory. 

i8o poushkin's prose tales. 

more imposing, and more guests may be invited ; but are 
not all equal in the sight of God ? " 

" Oh, father, we wanted to invite all the neighbourhood, 
but Vladimir Andreivitch did not wish it. Don't be 
alarmed, we have plenty to entertain people with. . . . but 
what would you have had us do ? At all events, if there are 
not many people, I can treat you well, my dear friends." 

This enticing promise and the hope of finding a toothsome 
pie, caused the talkers to quicken their steps, and they 
safely reached the manor-house, where the table was already 
laid and brandy served out. 

Meanwhile Vladimir advanced further into the depth ot 
the wood, endeavouring by exercise and fatigue to deaden 
the affliction of his soul. He walked on without taking any 
notice of the road ; the branches constantly grazed and 
scratched him, and his feet continually sank into the swamp 
— he observed nothing. At last he reached a small glade 
surrounded by trees on every side ; a little stream wound 
silently through the trees, half-stripped of their leaves by the 
autumn. Vladimir stopped, sat down upon the cold turf, 
and thoughts, each more gloomy than the other, oppressed 
his soul. . . . He felt his loneliness very keenly ; the future 
appeared to him enveloped in terrible clouds. Troekou- 
roff's enmity foreboded fresh misfortunes for him. His 
modest heritage might pass from him into the hands of 
a stranger, in which case beggary awaited him. For a long 
time he sat quite motionless in the same place, observing 
the gentle flow of the stream, bearing along on its surface a 
few withered leaves, and vividly representing to him the 
analogy of life. At last he observed that it began to grow 
dark ; he arose and sought for the road home, but for a long 
time he wandered about the unknown wood before he 
stumbled upon the path which led straight up to the gate of 
his house. 


He had not gone far before he met the priest coming to- 
wards him with all his clergy. The thought immediately 
occurred to him that this foreboded misfortune.^ He involun- 
tarily turned aside and disappeared behind the trees. The 
priests had not observed him, and they continued talking very 
earnestly among themselves. 

" Fly from evil and do good," said the priest to his wife. 
" There is no need for us to remain here ; it does not con- 
cern us, however the business may end." 

The priest's wife made some reply, but Vladimir could not 
hear what she said. 

Approaching the house, he saw a crowd of people ; peas- 
ants and servants of the household were flocking into the 
courtyard. In the distance Vladimir could hear an unusual 
noise and murmur of voices. Near the coach-house stood 
two troikas. On the steps several unknown men in uniform 
were seemingly engaged in conversation. 

"What does this mean?" he asked angrily of Anton, 
who ran forward to meet him. " Who are these people, and 
what do they want ? " 

" Oh, father Vladimir Andreivitch," replied Anton, out 
of breath, " the Court has come. They are giving us over to 
Troekouroff, they are taking us from your Honour ! . . ." 

Vladimir hung down his head; his people surrounded 
their unhappy master. 

"You are our father," they cried, kissing his hands. 
" We want no other master but you. We will die, but 
we will not leave you. Give us the order, Your Lordship, 
and we will soon settle matters with the Court." 

Vladimir looked at them, and dark thoughts rose within 

" Keep quiet," he said to them : " I will speak to the 

^ To meet a priest is considered a bad omen in Russia. 

1 82 poushkin's prose tales. 

** That's it — speak to them, father," shouted the crowd : 
" put the accursed wretches to shame ! " 

Vladimir approached the officials. Shabashkin, with his 
cap on his head, stood with his arms akimbo, looking 
proudly around him. The sheriff, a tall stout man, of about 
fifty years of age, with a red face and a moustache, seeing 
Doubrovsky approach, cleared his throat and called out in a 
hoarse voice : 

" And therefore I repeat to you what I have already 
said : by the decision of the district Court, you now belong 
to Kirila Petrovitch Troekouroff, who is here represented by 
M. Shabashkin. Obey him in everything that he orders 
you ; and you, women, love and honour him, as he loves you." 

At this witty joke the sheriff began to laugh. Shabashkin 
and the other officials followed his example. Vladimir 
boiled over with indignation. 

" Allow me to ask, what does all this mean ? " he inquired, 
with pretended calmness, of the jocular sheriff. 

" It means," replied the witty official, *' that we have come 
to place Kirila Petrovitch Troekouroff in possession of this 
property, and to request certain others to take themselves ofi 
for good arid all 1 " 

" But I think that you could have communicated all this to 
me first, rather than to my peasants, and announced to the 
landholder the decision of the authorities " 

"The former landowner, Andrei G^vrilovitch, is dead 
according to the will of God; but who are you?" said 
Shabashkin, with an insolent look. " We do not know you, 
and we don't want to know you." 

" Your Honour, that is our young master," said a voice in 
the crowd. 

" Who dared to open his mouth ? " said the sheriff, in a 
terrible tone. " That your master ? Your master is KiriU 
• Petrovitch Troekouroff. .... do you hear, idiots ? " 


" Nothing of the kind ! " said the same voice. 

" But this is a revolt ! " shrieked the sheriff. " Hi, baiHff, 
this way ! " 

The baiHff stepped forward. 

*' Find out immediately who it was that dared to answer 
me. I'll teach him a lesson ! " 

The bailiff turned towards the crowd and asked who had 
spoken. But all remained silent. Soon a murmur was 
heard at the back; it gradually grew louder, and in a 
minute it broke out into a terrible wail. The sheriff 
lowered his voice and was about to try to persuade them 
to be calm. 

" Why do you stand looking at him ? " cried the servants : 
" Come on, lads, forward ! " And the crowd began to move. 

Shabashkin and the other members of the Court rushed 
mto the vestibule, and closed the door behind them. 

" Seize them, lads ! " cried the same voice, and the crowd 
pressed forward. 

" Hold ! " cried Doubrovsky : " idiots ! what are you 
doing ? You will ruin yourselves and me, too. Go home 
all of you, and leave me to ihyself. Don't fear, the Czar is 
merciful : I will present a petition to him — he will not let us 
be made the victims of an injustice. We are all his children. 
But how can he take your part, if you begin rebelling and 
plundering ? " 

This speech of young Doubrovsky's, his sonorous voice 
and imposing appearance, produced the desired effect. The 
crowd became quiet and dispersed ; the courtyard became 
empty, the officials of the Court still remained inside the 
house. Vladimir sadly ascended the steps. Shabashkin 
opened the door, and with obsequious bows began to thank 
Doubrovsky for his generous intervention. 

Vladimir listened to him with contempt and made no 

184 poushkin's prose tales. 

"We have resolved," continued the assessor, "with your 
permission, to remain here for the night, as it is already 
dark, and your peasants might attack us on the road. Be 
kind enough to order some hay to be put down for us on 
the parlour floor ; as soon as it is daylight, we will take our 

" Do what you please," replied Doubrovsky drily : " I am 
no longer master here." 

With these words he entered into his father's room and 
locked the door behind hira. 



" A ND so, all is finished!" said Vladimir to himself. 
J~\. " This morning I had a corner and a piece of 
bread ; to-morrow I must leave the house where I was born. 
My father, with the ground where he reposes, will belong to 
that hateful man, the cause of his death and of my 
ruin ! " . . . Vladimir clenched his teeth and fixed his eyes 
upon the portrait of his mother. The artist had represented 
her leaning upon a balustrade, in a white morning dress, 
with a rose in her hair. 

" And that portrait will fall into the hands of the enemy 
of my family," thought Vladimir. " It will be thrown into a 
lumber room together with broken chairs, or hung up in the 
ante-room, to become an object of derision for his dog- 
keepers ; and in her bedroom, in the room where my father 
died, will be installed his bailiff, or his harem. No, no ! he 
shall not have possession of the house of mourning, from 
which he is driving me out." 

Vladimir clenched his teeth again ; terrible thoughts rose 
up in his mind. The voices of the officials reached him ; 
they were giving their orders, demanding first one thing and 
then another, and disagreeably disturbing him in the midst 
of his painful meditations. 

At last all became quiet. 

Vladimir unlocked the drawers and boxes and began to 
examine the papers of the deceased. They consisted for the 
most part of farming accounts and letters connected with 
various matters of business. Vladimir tore them up without 


reading them. Among them he came across a packet with 
the inscription : " Letters from my wife." A prey to deep 
emotion, Vladimir began to read them. They had been 
written during the Turkish campaign, and were addressed to 
the army from Kistenevka. Madame Doubrovsky described 
to her husband her life in the country and her business con- 
cerns, complained with tenderness of the separation, and 
implored him to return home as soon as possible to the arms 
of his loving wife. In one of these letters, she expressed to 
him her anxiety concerning the health of little Vladimir ; in 
another she rejoiced over his early intelligence, and pre. 
dieted for him a happy and brilliant future. Vladimir was 
so absorbed in his reading, that he forgot everything else in 
the world as his mind conjured up visions of domestic 
happiness, and he did not observe how the time was passing : 
the clock upon the wall struck eleven. Vladimir placed the 
letters in his pocket, took up a candle and left the room. In 
the parlour the officials were sleeping on the floor. Upon 
the table were tumblers which they had emptied, and a 
strong smell of rum pervaded the entire room. Vladimir 
turned from them with disgust, and passed into the ante- 
room. There all was dark. Somebody, seeing the light, 
crouched into a corner. Turning the light towards him, 
Vladimir recognized Arkhip the blacksmith. 

" Why are you here ? " he asked, in surprise. 

" I wanted — I came to find out if they were all in the 
house," replied Arkhip, in a low faltering voice. 

" And why have you got your axe ? " 

" Why have I got my axe ? Can anybody go about now- 
adays without an axe ? These officials are such impudent 
knaves, that one never knows " 

*' You are drunk ; throw the axe down and go to bed." 

" I drunk ? Father Vladimir Andreivitch, God is my 
witness that not a single drop of brandy has passed my 


lips, nor has the thought of such a thing entered my mind. 
Was ever such a thing heard of? These clerks have taken 
it into their heads to rule over us and to drive our master 

out of the manor-house How they snore, the 

wretches ! I should like to put an end to the whole lot of 
them at once." 

Doubrovsky frowned. 

** Listen, Arkhip," said he, after a short pause : " Get 
such ideas out of your head. It is not the fault of the 
officials. Light the lantern and follow me." 

Arkhip took the candle out of his master's hand, found 
the lantern behind the stove, lit it, and then both of them 
softly descended the steps and proceeded around the court- 
yard. The watchman began beating upon an iron plate ; the 
dogs commenced to bark. 

** Who is on the watch ? " asked Doubrovsky. 

** We, little father," replied a thin voice : " Vassilissa and 

" Go home," said Doubrovsky to them, " you are not 

" You can have a holiday," added Arkhip. 

" Thank you, benefactor," replied the women, and they 
immediately returned home. 

Doubrovsky walked on further. Two men approached 
him : they challenged him, and Doubrovsky recognized the 
voices of Anton and Grisha. 

" Why are you not in bed and asleep ? " he asked them. 

'* This is no time for us to think of sleep," replied Anton. 
*' Who would have thought that we should ever have come 
to this?" 

"Softly," interrupted Doubrovsky. "Where is Ego- 
rovna ? " 

" In the manor-house, in her room," replied Grisha. 

** Go and bring her here, and make all our people get out 


of the house; let not a soul remain in it except the 
officials ; and you, Anton, get the cart ready." 
. Grisha departed; a minute afterwards he returned with 
his mother. The old woman had not undressed that night ; 
with the exception of the officials, nobody closed an eye. 

** Are all here ?" asked Doubrovsky. " Has anybody been 
left in the house ? " 

•* Nobody, except the clerks," replied Grisha. 

" Bring here some hay or some straw," said Doubrovsky. 

The servants ran to the stables and returned with armfuls 
of hay. 

'* Put it under the steps — that's it Now, my lads, a 

Arkhip opened the lantern and Doubrovsky kindled a 

" Wait a moment," said he to Arkhip : " I think, in my 
hurry, that I locked the doors of *the hall. Go quickly and 
open them." 

Arkhip ran to the vestibule : the doors were opeiL He 
locked them, muttering in an undertone : "It's likely that 
I'll leave them open ! " and then returned to Doubrovsky. 

Doubrovsky applied the torch to the hay, which burst 
into a blaze, the flames rising to a great height and illumi- 
nating the whole courtyard. 

" Alas ! " cried Egorovna plaintively : " Vladimir Andrei- 
vitch, what are you doing?" 

" Silence ! " said Doubrovsky. " Now, children, fare- 
well ! I am going where God may direct me. Be happy 
with your new master." 

"Our father, our benefactor!" cried the peasants, "we 
will die — but we will not leave you, we will go with you." 

The horses were ready. Doubrovsky took his seat in the 
cart with Grisha ; Anton whipped the horses and they drove 
out of the courtyard. 


In one moment the whole house was enveloped in flames 
The floors cracked and gave way; the burning beams 
began to fall ; a red smoke rose above the roof, and there 
arose piteous groans and cries of ** Help, help ! " 

"Shout away ! " said Arkhip, with a malicious smile, con- 
templating the fire. 

" Dear Arkhip," said Egorovna to him, ** save them, the 
scoundrels, and God will reward you." 

" Let them shout," replied the blacksmith. 

At that moment the oflicials appeared at the window, 
endeavouring to burst the double sash. But at the same 
instant the roof fell in with a crash — and the cries ceased. 

Soon all the peasants came pouring into the courtyard. 
The women, screaming wildly, hastened to save their eff'ects ; 
the children danced about admiring the conflagration. 
The sparks flew up in a fiery shower, setting light to the 

" Now everything is right ! " said Arkhip. ** How it 
burns ! It must be a' grand sight frcim Pokrovskoe." 

At that moment a new apparition attracted his attention. 
A cat ran along the roof of a burning barn, without knowing 
where to leap from. Flames surrounded it on every side. 
The poor creature cried for help with plaintive mewings; 
the children screamed with laughter on seeing its despair. 

" What are you laughing at, you little demons? " said the 
blacksmith, angrily. ** Do you not fear God? One of God's 
creatures is perishing, and you rejoice over it." Then 
placing a ladder against the burning roof, /he mounted up 
towards the cat. She understood his intention, and, with 
grateful eagerness, clutched hold of his sleeve. The half- 
burnt blacksmith descended with his burden. 

"And now, lads, good bye," he said to the dismayed 
peasants : " there is nothing more for me to do here. May 
you be happy. Do not think too badly of mQ," 


The blacksmith took his departure. The fire raged for 
some time longer, and at last went out. Piles of red-hot 
embers glowed brightly in the darkness of the night, while 
round about them wandered the burnt-out inhabitants of 



THE next day the news of the fire spread -through all 
the neighbourhood. Everybody explained it in a 
different way. Some maintained that Doubrovsky's servants, 
having got drunk at the funeral, had set fire to the house 
through carelessness ; others blamed the officials, who were 
drunk also in their new quarters. Some guessed the truth, 
and affirmed that the author of the terrible calamity was 
Doubrovsky himself, urged on to the committal of the deed 
by the promptings of resentment and despair. Many main- 
tained that he had himself perished in the flames with the 
officials and all his servants. 

Troekouroff came the next day to the scene of the con- 
flagration, and conducted the inquest himself. It was 
stated that the sheriff, the assessor of the land Court, the 
attorney and his clerk, as well as Vladimir Doubrovsky, the 
nurse Egorovna, the servant Grisha, the coachman Anton, 
and the blacksmith Arkhip had disappeared — nobody knew 
where. All the servants declared that the officials perished 
at the moment when the roof fell in. Their charred re- 
mains in fact were discovered. The women, Vassilissa and 
Loukeria, said that they had seen Doubrovsky and Arkhip 
the blacksmith a few minutes before the fire. The black- 
smith Arkhip, according to the general showing, was 
alive, and was probably the principal, if not the sole 
author of the fire. Strong suspicions fell upon Dou- 



brovsky. Kirila Petrovitch sent to the Governor a detailed 
account of all that had happened, and a new suit was 

Soon other reports furnished fresh food for curiosity and 
gossip. Brigands appeared and spread terror throughout 
the whole neighbourhood. The measures taken against 
them proved unavailing. Robberies, each more daring 
than the other, followed one after another. There was no 
security either on the roads or in the villages. Several 
troikas^ filled with brigands, traversed the whole province 
in open daylight, stopping travellers and the mail. The 
villages were visited by them, and the manor-houses were 
attacked and set on fire. The chief ^of the band had 
acquired a great reputation for intelligence, daring, and a 
sort of generosity. Wonders were related of him. The 
name of Doubrovsky was upon every lip. Everybody was 
convinced that it was he, and nobody else, who commanded 
the daring robbers. One thing was remarkable : the 
domains and property of Troekouroff were spared. The 
brigands had not attacked a single barn of his, nor stopped 
a single load belonging to him. With his usual arrogance, 
Troekouroff attributed this exception to the fear which he 
had inspired throughout the whole province, as well as to 
the excellent police which he had organized in his villages. 
At first the neighbours smiled at the presumption of Troe- 
kouroff, and everyone expected that the uninvited guests 
would visit Pokrovskoe, where they would find something 
worth having, but at last they were compelled to agree and 
confess that the brigands showed him unaccountable respect. 
Troekouroff triumphed, and at the news of each fresh ex- 
ploit on the part of Doubrovsky, he indulged in ironical 
remarks at the expense of the Governor, the sheriffs, and 
the regimental commanders, who always allowed the brigand 
chief to escape with impunity. 


Meanwhile the ist of October arrived, the day of the 
annual church festival in Troekouroff's village. But before 
we proceed to describe further events, we must acquaint the 
reader with some personages who are new to him, or whom 
we merely mentioned at the beginning of our story. 




THE reader has probably already divined that the 
daughter of Kirila Petrovitch, of whom we have as 
yet said but very little, is the heroine of our story. At the 
period about which we are writing, she was seventeen years 
old, and in the full bloom of her beauty. Her father loved her 
to the verge of folly, but treated her with his charatteristic 
wilfulness, at one time endeavouring to gratify her slightest 
whims, at another terrifying her by his coarse ^nd some- 
times brutal behaviour. Convinced of her attachment, he 
c:nild yet never gain her confidence. . She was accustomed 
to conceal from hinv her thoughts and feelings, because she 
never knew in what manner they would be received. She 
had no companions, and had grown up in solitude. The 
wives and daughters of the neighbours rarely visited at the 
house of Kirila Petrovitch, whose usual conversation and 
amusements demanded the companionship of men, and not 
the presence of ladies. Our beauty rarely appeared among 
the guests who were invited to her father's house. The 
extensive library, consisting for the most part of works of 
French writers of the eighteenth century, was given over to 
her charge. Her father never read anything except the 
" Perfect Cook," and could not guide her in the choice of 
books, and Masha, after having dipped into works of various 
kinds, had naturally given her preference to romances. In 
this manner she went on completing her education, first 
begun upder the direction of Mademoiselle Micheau, in 
whom Kirila Petrovitch reposed great confidence, and whom 


he was at last obliged to send away secretly to another 
estate, when the results of this friendship became too 

Mademoiselle Micheau left behind her a rather agreeable 
recollection. She was a good-natured girl, and had never 
misused the influence which she evidently exercised over 
Kirila Petrovitch, in which she differed from the other 
confidants, whom he constantly kept changing. Kirila Petro- 
vitch himself seemed to like her more than the others, and a 
dark-eyed, roguish-looking little fellow of nine, recalling 
the southern features of Mademoiselle Micheau, was being 
brought up by him and was recognized as his son, notwith- 
standing the fact that quite a number of bare-footed lads 
ran about in front of his windows, who were as like Kirila 
Petrovitch as one drop of water is to another, and who were 
inscribed as forming part of his household. Kirila Petro- 
yitch had sent to Moscow for a French tutor for his little 
son, Sasha,^ and this tutor came to Pokrovskoe at the time 
of the events that we are now describing. 

This tutor, by his prepossessing appearance and simple 
manners, produced a very agreeable impression upon the 
mind of Kirila Petrovitch. He presented to the latter his 
credentials, and a letter from one of Troekouroff's relations, 
with whom he had lived as tutor for four years. Kirila 
Petrovitch examined all these, and was dissatisfied only with 
the youthfulness of the Frenchman, not because he con- 
sidered this agreeable defect incompatible with the patience 
and experience necessary for the unhappy calling of a tutor, 
but because he had doubts of his own, which he immediately 
resolved to have cleared up. For this purpose he ordered 
Masha to be sent %o him. Kirila Petrovitch did not speak 
French, and she acted as interpreter for him. 

* Diminutive of Alexander. 

196 poushkin's prose tales. 

"Come here, Masha: tell this Monsieur that I accept 
him only on condition that he does not venture to pay court 
to my girls, for if he should do so, the son of a dog, I'll . . . 
Translate that to him, Masha." 

Masha blushed, and turning to the tutor, told him in 
French that her father counted upon his modesty and orderly 

The Frenchman bowed to her, and replied that he hoped 
to merit esteem, even if favour were not shown to him- 

Masha translated his reply word for word. 

" Very well, very well," said Kirila Petrovitch, " he needs 
neither favour nor esteem. His business is to look after 
Sasha and teach him grammar and geography — translate 
that to him." 

Maria Kirilovna softened the rude expressions of her 
father in translating them, and Kirila Petrovitch dismissed 
his Frenchman to the wing of the house in which his room 
was situated. , 

Masha had not given a thought to the young Frenchman. 
Brought up with aristocratic prejudices, a tutor, in her eyes, 
was only a sort of servant or artizan ; and servants or artizans 
did not seem to her to be men at all. Nor did she observe 
the impression that she had produced upon Monsieur 
Desforges, nor his confusion, nor his agitation, nor the 
tremor in his voice. For several days afterwards, she met 
him very frequently, but without honouring him with much 
attention. In an unexpected manner, however, she received 
quite a new impression with respect to him. 

In the courtyard of Kirila Petrovitch there were usually 
kept several young bears, and they formed one of the chief 
amusements of the master of Pokrovskoe. While they were 
young, they were brought every day into the parlour, where 
Kirila Petrovitch used to spend whole hours in amusing 
himself with them, setting them at cats and young dogs. 


When they were grown up, they were attached to a chain, 
to await being baited in earnest. Sometimes they were 
brought out in front of the windows of the manor-house, and 
an empty wine-cask, studded with nails, was put before them. 
The bear would sniff it, then touch it gently, and getting its 
paws pricked, it would become angry and push the cask 
with greater force, and so wound itself still more. The 
beast would then work itself into a perfect frenzy, and fling 
itself upon the cask, growling furiously, until they removed 
from the poor animal the'object of its vain rage. Sometimes 
a pair of bears were harnessed to a telega^ then, willingly or 
unwillingly, guests were placed in it, and the bears were 
allowed to gallop wherever chance might direct them. But 
the best joke of Kirila Petrovitch's was as follows : 

A starving bear used to be shut up in an empty room and 
fastened by a rope to a ring screwed into the wall. The 
rope was nearly the length of the room, so that only the 
opposite corner was out of the reach of the ferocious beast. 
A novice was generally brought to the door of this room, and, 
as if by accident, pushed in along with the bear ; the door 
was then locked, and the unhappy victim was left alone with 
the shaggy hermit. The poor guest, with torn skirts and 
scratched hands, soon sought the safe corner, but he was 
sometimes compelled to stand for three whole hours, 
pressed against the wall, watching the savage beast, two 
steps from him, leaping and standing on its hind legs, 
growling, tugging at the rope and endeavouring to reach 
him. Such were the noble amusements of a Russian 
gentleman ! 

Some days after the arrival of the French tutor, Troekouroff 
thought of him, and resolved to give him a taste of the bear's 
room. For this purpose, he summoned him one morning, 
and conducted him along several dark corridors; suddenly 
a side door opened — two servants pushed the Frenchman 

198 poushkin's prose tales. 

into the room and locked the door after him. Recovering 
from his surprise, the tutor perceived the chained bear. The 
animal began to snort and to sniff at his visitor from a dis- 
tance, and suddenly raising himself upon his hind legs, he ad- 
vanced towards him. . . . The Frenchman was not alarmed ; 
he did not retreat but awaited the attack. The bear drew 
near ; Desforges drew from his pocket a small pistol, inserted 
it in the ear of the hungry animal, and fired. The bear rolled 
over. • Everybody was attracted to the spot by the report, 
the door was opened, and Kirila Petrovitch entered, as- 
tonished at the result of his joke. 

Kirila Petrovitch wanted an explanation of the whole 
affair. Who had warned Desforges of the joke, or how 
came he to have a loaded pistol in his pocket ? He sent 
for Masha. Masha came and interpreted her father's 
questions to the Frenchman. 

" I never heard even of the existence of the bear,*' replied 
Desforges, "but I always carry a pistol about with me, 
because I do not intend to put up with an offence for which, 
on account of my calling, I cannot demand satisfaction." 

Masha looked at him in astonishment and translated his 
words to Kirila Petrovitch. Kirila Petrovitch made no 
reply ; he ordered the bear to be removed and its skin to be 
taken off; then turning to his people, he said : 

" What a brave fellow ! There is nothing of the coward 
about him. By the Lord, he is certainly no coward ! " 

From that moment he took a liking to Desforges, and 
never thought again of putting him to the proof. 

But this incident produced a still greater impression upon 
Maria Kirilovna. Her imagination had been struck: she 
had seen the dead bear, and Desforges standing calmly over 
it and talking tranquilly to her. She saw that bravery and 
proud self-respect did not belong exclusively to one class, 
and from that moment she began to show regard for the 


young tutor, and this regard increased from day to day. A 
certain intimacy sprang up between them. Masha had a 
beautiful voice and great musical ability ; Desforges proposed 
to give her lessons. After that it will not be difficult for the 
reader to understand that Masha fell in love with him with- 
out acknowledging it to herself. 




ON the eve of the festival, of which we have already 
spoken, the guests began to arrive at Pokrovskoe. 
Some were accommodated at the manor-house and in the 
wings attached to it ; others in the house of the bailiflf ; a 
third party was quartered upon the priest; and the re- 
mainder upon the better class of peasants. The stables 
were filled with the horses of the visitors, and the yards and 
coach-houses were crowded with vehicles of every sort. At 
nine o^clock in the morning the bells rang for mass, and 
everybody repaired to the new stone church, built by Kirila 
Petrovitch and annually enriched by his offerings. The 
church was soon crowded with such a number of dis- 
tinguished worshippers, that the simple peasants could find 
no room within the edifice, and had to stand beneath the 
porch and inside the railings. The mass had not yet begun : 
they were waiting for Kirila Petrovitch. He arrived at last 
in a caleche drawn by six horses, and walked proudly to his 
place, accompanied by Maria Kirilovna. The eyes of both 
men and women were turned upon her — the former were 
astonished at her beauty, the latter examined her dress with 
great attention. 

The mass began. The household singers sang in the 
choir, and Kirila Petrovitch joined in with them. He prayed 
without looking either to the right or to the left, and with 
proud humility he bowed himself to the ground when the 
deacon in a loud voice mentioned the name of the founder 
of the church. 


The mass came to an end.^ Kirila Petrovitch was the 
first to kiss the crucifix. All the others followed him ; the 
neighbours approached him with respect, the ladies sur- 
rounded Masha. Kirila Petrovitch, on issuing from the 
church, invited everybody to dine with him, then he seated 
himself in the caliche and drove home. All the guests 
followed after him. 

The rooms ibegan to fill with the visitors ; every moment 
new faces appeared, and it was with difficulty that the host 
could be approached. The ladies sat decorously in a 
semicircle, dressed in antiquated fashion, in dresses of 
faded but expensive material, all covered with pearls and 
briUiants. The men crowded round the caviar"^ and the 
vodka^ conversing among themselves with great animation. 
In the dining-room the table was laid for eighty persons ; 
the servants were bustling about, arranging the bottles and 
decanters and adjusting the table-cloths. 

At last the house-steward announced that dinner was 
ready. Kirila Petrovitch went first and took his seat at 
the table; the ladies followed after him, and took theii 
places with an air of great gravity, observing a sort of 
precedence as they did so. The young ladies crowded 
together like a timid herd of kids, and took their places 
next to one another. Opposite to them sat the gentlemen. 
At the end of the table sat the tutor by the side of the little 

The servants began to pass the plates round according to 
the rank of the guests ; when they were in doubt about the 
latter point, they allowed themselves to be guided by 
instinct, and their guesses were nearly always correct. 
The noise of the plates and spoons mingled with the loud 

^ At the end' of the service in the Russian Church, all the members 
of the congregation kiss the crucifix. 
^ The roes of sturgeons prepared and salted. • Brandy, 


talk of the guests. Kirila Petrovitch looked gaily round his 
table and thoroughly enjoyed the happiness of being able 
to provide such a hospitable entertainment. At that 
moment a calbche, drawn by six horses, drove into the 

" Who is that ? " asked the host. 

" Anton Pafnoutitch," replied several voices. 

The doors opened, and Anton Pafnoutitch Spitsin, a 
stout man of about fifty years of age, with a round pock- 
marked face, adorned with a treble chin, rolled into the 
dining-room, bowing, smiling, and preparing to make his 

" A cover here ! " cried Kirila Petrovitch. " Pray sit 
down, Anton Pafnoutitch, and tell us what this means : 
you were not at my mass, and you are late for dinner. 
This is not like you. You are devout, and you love good 

" Pardon me," replied Anton Pafnoutitch, fastening his 
serviette in the button-hole of his coat : "pardon me, little 
father Kirila Petrovitch, I started early on my journey, but 
I had not gone ten versts, when suddenly the tire of the 
front wheel snapped in two. What was to be done? 
Fortunately it was not far from the village. But by the 
time we had arrived there, and had found a blacksmith, 
and had got everything put to rights, three hours had 
elapsed. It could not be helped. To take the shortest 
route through the wood of Kistenevka, I did not dare, 
so we came the longest way round." 

"Ah, ah!" interrupted Kirila Petrovitch, "it is evident 
that you do not belong to the brave ten. What are you 
afraid of?" 

"How, what am I afraid of, little father Kirila Petro- 
vitch ? And Doubrovsky ? I might have fallen into his 
clutches. He is a young man who never misses his aim — 


he lets nobody off ; and I am afraid he would have flayed 
we twice over, had he got hold of me." 

** Why, brother, such a distinction ? " 

"Why, father Kirila Petrovitch? Have you forgotten 
the lawsuit of the late Andrei Gavrilovitch ? Was it not I 
who, to please you, that is to say, according to conscience 
and justice, showed that Doubrovsky held possession of 
Kistenevka without having any right to it, and solely 
through your condescension ; and did not the deceased — 
God rest his soul ! — vow that he would settle with me in his owi^ 
way, and might not the son keep his father's word ? Hither- 
to the Lord has been merciful to me. Up to the present tliey 
have only plundered one of my barns, but one of these days 
they may find their way to the manor-house." 

" Where they would find a rich booty," observed Kirila 
Petrovitch : " I have no doubt that the little red cash-box 
is as full as it can be." 

" Not so, father Kirila Petrovitch ; there was a time when 
it was full, but now it is perfectly empty." 

" Don't tell lies, Anton Pafiioutitch. We know you. 
Where do you spend money? At home you live like 
^ pig> yo^ never receive anybody, and you fleece your 
peasants. You do nothing with your money but hoard it up." 

" You are only joking, father Kirila Petrovitch," mur- 
mured Anton Pafnoutitch, smiling; **but I swear to you 
that we are ruined," and Anton Pafnoutitch swallowed 
his host's joke with a greasy piece of fish pasty. 

Kirila Petrovitch left him and turned to the new sheriff", 
who was his guest for the first time and who was sitting at 
the other end of the table, near the tutor. 

"Well, Mr. Sheriff, give us a proof of your cleverness: 
catch Doubrovsky for us." 

The sheriff looked disconcerted, bowed, smiled, stam- 
mered, and said at last : 

204 poushkin's prose tales. 

" We will try, Your Excellency." 

" H'm ! we will try ! ' You have been trying for a long 
time to rid our country of brigands. Nobody knows how to 
set about the business. And, after all, why try to catch 
him ? Doubrovsky's robberies are a blessing to the sheriffs : 
what with investigations, travelling expenses, and the money 
they put into their pockets. He will never be caught 
Why should such a benefactor be put down? Isn't that 
true, Mr. Sheriff?" 

" Perfectly true, Your Excellency," replied the completely 
confused sheriff. 

The guests roared with laughter. 

" I like the fellow for his frankness," said Kirila Petro- 
vitch : " but it is a pity that our late sheriff is no longer with 
us. If he had not been burnt, the neighbourhood would have 
been quieter. And what news of Doubrovsky ? Where was 
he last seen?" 

" At my house, Kirila Petrovitch," said a female voice : 
"last Tuesday he dined with me." 

All eyes were turned towards Anna Savishna Globova, 
a very simple widow, beloved by everybody for her kind and 
cheerful disposition. Everyone prepared to listen to her 
story with the deepest interest. 

" You must know that three weeks ago I sent my steward 
to the post with a letter for my Vaniusha.^ I do not spoil 
my son, and moreover I haven't the means of spoiling him, 
even if I wished to do so. However, you know very well 
that an officer of the Guards must live in a suitable style, 
and I share my income with Vaniusha as well as I can. 
Well, I sent two thousand roubles to him ; and although the 
thought of Doubrovsky came more than once into my mind, 
I thought to myself: the town is not far off — only seven 
versts altogether, perhaps God will order all things for the 
^ Diminutive of Ivan. 


best. But what happens? In the evening my steward 
returns, pale, tattered, and on foot. * What is the matter ? 
What has happened to you ? ' I exclaimed. * Little mother 
Anna Savishna,' he replied, ' the brigands have robbed and 
almost killed me. Doubrovsky himself was there, and he 
wanted to hang me, but he afterwards had pity upon me and 
let me go. But he plundered me of everything — money, 
horse, and cart.' A faintness came over me. Heavenly 
Lord ! What will become of my Vaniusha ? There was 
nothing to be done. I wrote a fresh letter, telHng him all 
that had happened, and sent him my blessing without a • 
farthing of money. One week passed, and then another. 
Suddenly, one day, a calbche drove into my courtyard. 
Some general asked to see me : I gave orders for him to be 
shown in. He entered the room, and I saw before me 
a man of about thirty-five years of age, dark, with black 
hair, moustache and beard — the exact portrait of Koulneff. 
He introduced himself to me as a friend and comrade of 
my late husband, Ivan Andreivitch. He happened to be 
passing by, and he could not resist paying a visit to his old 
friend's widow, knowing that I lived there. I invited him 
to dine, and I set before him what God had sent me. We 
spoke of this and that, and at last we began to talk about 
Doubrovsky. I told him of my trouble. My general 
frowned. ' That is strange,' said he : * I have heard that 
Doubrovsky does not attack everybody, but only people who 
are well known to be rich, and that even then he leaves 
them a part of their possessions and does not plunder 
them of everything. As for murdering people, nobody has 
yet accused him of that. Is there not some roguery here ? 
Oblige me by sending for your steward.' 

"The steward was sent for, and quickly made his appear- ^ 
ance. But as soon as he caught sight of the general he 
stood as if petrified. 


2o6 poushkin's prose tales. 

"'Tell me, brother, in what manner did Doubrovsky 
plunder you, and how was it that he wanted to hang you?' 
My steward began to tremble and fell at the general's feet. 

" ' Little father, I am guilty. The evil one led me astray. 
I have lied.' 

" ' If that is so,' replied the general, * have the goodness 
to relate to your mistress how it all happened, and I will 

" My steward could not recover himself. 

" * Well, then,' continued the general, * tell us where you 
met Doubrovsky.' 

" * At the two pine trees, little father, at the two pine 

** * What did he say to you ? '^ 

***He asked me who I was, where I was going, and 

"*WeU, and after that?' 

" * After that he demanded the letter and the money from 
me, and I gave them to him.' v - 

"'And he?' 

" * Well, and he . . . little father, pardon me ! ' 

"'Well, what did he do?' 

" ' He returned me the money and the letter, and sai( 
* Go, in the name of God, and put this in the post.' 


" ' Little father, pardon me ! * 

"'I will settle with you, my pigeon,' said the genera 
sternly. ' And you, madam, order this scoundrel's trunk to 
be searched, and then give him into my hands ; I will teach 
him a lesson.' 

"I guessed who his Excellency was, but I did not make 
any observation. The coachmen tied the steward to the 
box of the caliche; the money was found; the general 
remained to dine with me, and departed immediately 


afterwards, taking with him my steward. The steward was 
found the next day in the wood, tied to an oak, and as 
ragged as a lime tree." 

Everybody listened in silence to Anna Savishna's story, 
especially the young ladies. Many of them secretly wished 
well to Doubrovsky, seeing in him a romantic hero, particu- 
larly Maria Kirilovna, an impulsive, sentimental girl, imbued 
with the mysterious horrors of Mrs. Anne Radcliffe.^ 

"And do you think, Anna Savishna, that it was Dou- 
brovsky himself who visited you ? " asked Kirila Petrovitch. 
"You are very much mistaken. I do not know who your 
guest may have been, but I feel quite sure that it was not 

*'How, little father, not Doubrovsky? But who is it 
then, if not he, who stops travellers on the high road in 
order to search them ? " 

- "I don't know.; but I feel confident that it is not Dou- 
brovsky. I remember him as a child; I do not know 
whether his hair has turned black, but at that time he was 
a curly flaxen-haired boy. But I do know for a positive 
fact, that Doubrovsky is five years older than my Masha, 
and that consequently he is not thirty -five, but about 

"Exactly so, Your Excellency," observed the sheriff: "I 
have in my pocket the description of Vladimir Doubrovsky. 
In that it is distinctly stated that he is twenty-three years of 

"Ah!" said Kirita Petrovitch. "By the way, read it, 
and we will listen : it will not be a had thing for us to know 
his description. Perhaps he may fall into our clutches, and 
if so, he will not escape in a hurry." 

^ A now almost forgotten romance writer, whose '• Romance of the 
Forest," ** Mysteries of Udolpho," and "Italian," were very popular 
a century ago. 


The sheriff drew from his pocket a rather dirty sheet of 
paper, unfolded ir with an air of great importance, and 
began to read in a monotonous tone : 

'* Description of Doubrovsky, based upon the depositions 
of his former servants : 

" Twenty-three years of age, medium height, clear com- 
plexion, shaves his beard, has brown eyes, flaxen hair, 
straight nose. Does not seem to have any particular 

''And is that all?" said Kirila Petrovitch. 

" That is all," replied the sheriff, folding up the paper. 

" I congratulate you, Mr. Sheriff. A very valuable docu- 
ment ! With that description it will not be difficult for you 
to find Doubrovsky ! Who is not of medium height ? Who 
has not flaxen hair, a straight nose and brown eyes ? I would 
wager that you would talk for three hours at a stretch to 
Doubrovsky himself, and you would never guess in whose 
company you were. There is no denying that these officials 
have wise heads." 

The sheriff, meekly replacing the paper in his pocket, 
silently busied himself with his goose and cabbage. Mean- 
while the servants had already gone the round of the guests 
several times, filling up each one's glass. Several bottles of 
Caucasus wine had been opened with a great deal of noise, 
and had been thankfully accepted under the name of 
champagne. Faces began to glow, and the conversation 
grew louder, more incoherent and more lively. 

" No," continued Kirila Petrovitch, " we shall never see 
another sheriff like the late Taras Alexeievitch ! He was 
not the man to be thrown off the scent very easily. I am 
very sorry that the fellow was burnt, for otherwise not one 
of the band would have got away from him. He would 
have laid his hands upon the whole lot of them, and not 
even Doubrovsky himself would have escaped. Taras 


Alexeievitch would perhaps have taken money from him, 
but he would not have let him go. Such was the way of 
the deceased. Evidently there is nothing else to be done 
but for me to take the matter in hand and go after the 
brigands with my people. I will begin by sending out 
twenty men to scour the wood. My people are not 
cowards. Each of them would attack a bear single-handed, 
and they certainly would not fall back before a brigand." 

"How is your bear, father Kirila Petrovitch?" asked 
Anton Pafnoutitch, being reminded by these words of his 
shaggy acquaintance and of certain pleasantries of which he 
had once been the victim. 

**Misha^ wishes you a long life," replied Karila Petro- 
vitch: '*he died a glorious death at the hands of the 
eneniy. There is his conqueror ! " Kirila Petrovitch pointed 
to the French tutor. " He has avenged your — if you will 
allow me to'^ay so — do you remember ? " 

** How should I not remember ? " said Anton Pafnoutitch, 
scratching his head : ** I remember it only too well. So 
Misha is dead. I am very sorry for Misha — upon my word, 
I am very sorry ! How amusing he was ! How intelligent ! 
You will not find another bear like him. And why did 
monsieur kill him ? " 

Kirila Petrovitch began, with great satisfaction, to relate 
the exploit of his Frenchman, for he possessed the happy 
faculty of boasting of everything that was about him. The 
guests listened with great attention to the story of Misha's 
death, and gazed in astonishment at Desforges, who, not 
suspecting that his bravery was the subject of conversation, 
sat tranquilly in his place, giving advice to his restive 

^ Diminutive of Michael — the familiar name for a bear in Russia. 
^ A Russian figure of speech which signifies that the person spoken of 
is dead. 


The dinner, after lasting about three hours, came to an 
end; the host placed his serviette upon the table, and 
everybody rose and repaired to the parlour, where awaited 
them coffee, cards, and a continuation of the carouse so 
excellently begun in the dining-room. 



ABOUT seven o'clock in the evening, some of the guests 
wished to depart, but the host, merry with punch, 
ordered the gates to be locked, and declared that nobody 
should leave the house until the next morning. Music soon 
resounded, the doors of the saloon were thrown open and 
the ball began. The host and his familiar acquaintances sat 
in a corner, draining glass after glass, and admiring the 
gaiety of the young people. The old ladies played at cards. 
The gentlemen, as is always the case, except where a brigade 
of uhlans is stationed, were less in number than the ladies, 
and all the men, suitable for partners, were soon engaged 
for the dance. The tutor particularly distinguished himself 
among them; all the ladies waiited to have him as a 
partner, as they found it so exceedingly easy to waltz with 
him. He danced several times with Maria Kirilovna, and 
the ladies observed them with great interest. At last, about 
midnight, the tired host stopped the dancing, ordered 
supper to be served, and then betook himself off to bed. 

The retirement of Kirila Petrovitch gave to the company 
more freedom and animation. The gentlemen ventured to 
sit near the ladies ; the girls laughed and spoke in whispers 
to their neighbours j the ladies spoke in loud voices across 
the table ; the gentlemen drank, disputed, and laughed 
boisterously. In a word, the supper was exceedingly merry, 
•and left behind it a very agreeable impression. 

One man only did not share in the general joy. Anton 
Pafnoutitch sat gloomy and silent in his place, ate absently, 


and seemed extremely uneasy. The conversation about the 
brigands had worked upon his imagination. We shall soon 
see that he had good cause to fear them. 

Anton Pafnoutitch, in invoking God as a witness that the 
little red cash-box was empty, had not lied and sinned. The 
little red cash-box was really empty. The bank notes, 
which had at one time been in it, had been transferred to a 
leather pouch, which he carried on his breast under his 
shirt. This precaution alone quieted his distrust of every- 
body and his constant fear. Being compelled to spend the 
night in a strange house, he was afraid that he might be 
lodged in some solitary room, where thieves could easily 
break in. He looked round in search of a trustworthy com- 
panion, and at last his choice fell upon Desforges. His 
appearance, — indicative of strength, — but especially the 
bravery shown by him in his encounter with the bear, which 
poor Anton Pafnoutitch could never think of without a 
shudder, decided his choice. When they rose from the table, 
Anton Pafnoutitch began moving round the young French- 
man, clearing his throat ancj coughing, and at last he turned 
to him and addressed him : 

" Hm ! hm ! Couldn't I spend the night in your room, 
mossoo, because you see " 

^^ Que desire monsieur V asked Desforges, with a poHte 

" Ah ! what a pity, mossoo, that you have not yet learnt 
Russian. Je vais moa chez vous coucher. Do you under- 

^^ Monsieur, trh vo/ontiers" replied Desforges, '•^ veuillez 
donner des ordres eti consequence.^^ 

Anton Pafnoutitch, well satisfied with his knowledge of 
the French language, went off at once to make the necessary 

The guests began to wish each other good night, and each 



retired to the room assigned to him, while Anton Pafnoutitch 
accompanied the tutor to the wing. The night was 
dark. Desforges lighted the way with a lantern. Anton 
Pafnoutitch followed him boldly enough, pressing the hidden 
treasure occasionally against his breast, in order to convince 
himself that his money was still there. 

On arriving at the wing, the tutor lit a candle and both 
began to undress ; in the meantime Anton Pafnoutitch was 
walking about the room, examining the locks and windows, 
and shaking his head at the unassuring inspection. The 
doors fastened with only one bolt, and the windows had not 
yet their double frames.^ He tried to complain to Desforges, 
but his knowledge of the French language was too limited 
to enable him to express himself with sufficient clearness. 
The Frenchman did not understand him, and Anton 
Pafnoutitch was obliged to cease his complaints. Their 
beds stood opposite each other; they both lay down, and 
the tutor extinguished the light. 

''^ Pourquoi vous toucher; pourquoi vous toucher 7" cried 
Anton Pafnoutitch, conjugating the Russian verb to extin- 
guish, after the French manner. " I cannot dormir in the 

Desforges did not understand his exclamations, and 
wished him good night. 

"Accursed pagan!" muttered Spitsin, wrapping himself 
up in the bedclothes : *' he couldn't do without extin- 
guishing the light. So much the worse for him. I cannot 
sleep without a light — Mossoo, mossoo^' he continued : "yj? 
ve avec vous parler" 

But the Frenchman did not reply, and soon began to 

" He is snoring, the French brute, '* though'J Anton 

^ The Russians put double frames to their windows in winter. 

214 poushkin's prose tales. 

Pafnoutitch, " while I can't even think of going to sleep. 
Thieves might walk in at any moment through the open 
doors or climb in through the window, and the firing of a 
cannon would not wake him, the beast ! " 

" Mossoo / mossoo ! — the devil take you ! " 

Anton Pafnoutitch became silent. Fatigue and the effects 
of wine gradually overcame his fear. He began to doze, and 
soon fell into a deep sleep. A strange sensation aroused 
him. He felt in his sleep that someone was gently pulling 
him by the collar of his shirt. Anton Pafnoutitch opened his 
eyes and, by the pale light of an autumn morning, he saw 
Desforges standing before him. In one hand the French- 
man held a pocket pistol, and with the other he was unfasten- 
ing the strings of the precious leather pouch. Anton 
Pafnoutitch felt faint. 

** Qu!est ce que dest, Mossoo^ quUst ce que ^est ? " said he, in 
a trembling voice. 

" Hush ! Silence ! " replied the tutor in pure Russian. 
" Silence 1 or you are lost. I am Doubrovsky." 



WE will now ask the permission of the reader to explain 
the last incidents of our story, by referring to the 
circumstances that preceded them, and which we have not 
yet had time to relate. 

At the station of , at the house of the postmaster, of 

whom we have already spoken, sat a traveller in a corner, 
looking very modest and resigned, and having the appear- 
ance of a plebeian or a foreigner, that is to say, of a man 
having no voice in connection with the post route. His 
britchka ^ stood in the courtyard, waiting for the wheels to be 
greased. Within it lay a small portmanteau, evidence of a 
very modest fortune. The traveller ordered neither tea nor 
coffee, but sat looking out of the window and whistling, to 
the great annoyance of the postmistress sitting behind the 

"The Lord has sent us a whistler," said she, in a low 
voice. " How he does whistle ! I wish he would burst, the 
accursed pagan ! " 

*' What does it matter ? " said her husband. " Let him 

"What does it matter?" retorted his angry spouse; 
" don't you know the saying ? " 

" What saying ? That whistling drives money away ? Oh, 
Pakhomovna, whether he whistles or not, we shall get 
precious Httle money out of him." 

^ A kind of open four-wheeled carriage, with a top and shutters to 
close at pleasure. 


" Then let him go, Sidoritch. What pleasure have you in 
keeping him here ? Give him the horses, and let him go to 
the devil." 

" He can wait, Pakhomovna. I have only three troikas 
in the stable, the fourth is resting. Besides, travellers of 
more importance may arrive at any moment, and I don't 
wish to risk my neck for a Frenchman. . . . Hallo ! there 
you are ! Don't you hear the sound of galloping ! What a 
rate ! Can it be a general ? " 

A caliche stopped in front of the steps. The servant 
jumped down from the box, opened the door, and a moment 
afterwards a young man in a military cloak and white cap 
entered the station. Behind him followed his servant, 
carrying a small box which he placed upon the window- 

" Horses ! " said the officer, in an imperious voice. 

** Directly!" replied the postmaster: "your road-pass, 
if you please." 

" I have no road-pass : I am not going to take the main 
road. . . . Besides, don't you recognize me ? " 

The postmaster hastened to hurry the postilions. The 
young man began to pace up and down the room. Then 
he went behind the partition, and inquired of the post- 
mistress in a low voice : 

" Who is that traveller? " 

" God knows 1 " replied the postmistress : " some French- 
man or other. He has been five hours waiting for horses, 
and has done nothing but whistle the whole of the time. 
He has quite wearied me, the heathen ! " 

The young man spoke to the traveller in French. 

** Where are you going to ? " he asked. 

"To the neighbouring town," replied the Frenchman: 
" and from there I am going to a landed proprietor who has 
engaged me as tutor without ever having seen me. I thought 


I should have reached the place to-day, but the postmaster 
has evidently decided otherwise. In this country it is 
difficult to procure horses, monsieur I'officier." 

" And to which of the landed proprietors about here have 
you engaged yourself?" asked the officer. 

" To Troekouroff," replied the Frenchman. 

"To Troekouroff? Who is this Troekourofif?" 

" Ma foi^ monsieur. I have heard very little good of 
him. They say that he is a proud and wilful noble, and so 
harsh towards the members of his household, that nobody 
can live on good terms with him : that all tremble at his 
name, and that with his tutors he stands upon no ceremony 

"And you have decided to engage yourself to such a 
monster ? " 

" What is to be done, monsieur I'officier? He proposes to 
give me good wages : three thousand roubles a year and 
everything found. Perhaps I may be more fortunate than 
the others. I have an aged mother: one half of my salary 
I will send to her for her support, and out of the rest of my 
money I shall be able in five years to save a small capital 
sufficient to make me independent for the rest of my life. 
Then, bon soir, I return to Paris and set up in business." 

" Does anybody at Troekouroff 's know you ? " asked the 

"Nobody," replied the tutor. "He engaged me at 
Moscow, through one of his friends, whose cook is a 
countryman of mine, and who recommended me. I must 
tell you that I did not intend to be a tutor, but a con- 
fectioner ; but I was told that in your country the profession 
of tutor is more lucrative.'"' 

The officer reflected. 

" Listen to me," he said to the Frenchman : " What would 
you say if, instead of this engagement, you were offered ten 


thousand roubles, ready money, on condition that you 
returned immediately to Paris?" 

The Frenchman looked at the officer in astonishment, 
smiled, and shook his head. 

"The horses are ready," said the postmaster, entering 
the room at that moment. 

The servant confirmed this statement. 

" Presently," replied the officer : " leave the room for a 
moment." The postmaster and the servant withdrew " I 
am not joking," he continued in French. " I can give you 
ten thousand roubles ; I only want your absence and your 

So saying, he opened his small box and took out of it 
several bank notes. The Frenchman opened his eyes. He 
did not know what to think. 

" My absence ... my papers ! " he repeated in astonish- 
ment. *' Here are my papers . . . but you are surely joking. 
What do you want my papers for ? " 

" That does not concern you. I ask you, do you consent 
or not?" 

The Frenchman, still unable to believe his own ears, 
handed his papers to the young officer, who rapidly examined 

"Your passport . . . very well; your letter of recom- 
mendation ... let us see ; the certifigarte of your birth . . . 
capital ! Well, here is your money ; return home. Farewell." 

The Frenchman stood as if glued to the spot. The officer 
came back. 

" I had almost forgotten the most important thing of all. 
Give me your word of honour that all this will remain a 
secret between us. . . . Your word of honour." 

" My word of honour," replied the Frenchman. " But 
my papers ? What shall I do without them ?" 

*' In the first town you come to, announce that you have 


been robbed by Doubrovsky. They will believe you, and 
give you fresh papers. Farewell : God grant you a safe and 
speedy return to Paris, and may you find your mother in 
good health." 

Doubrovsky left the room, mounted the caliche, and 
galloped off. 

The postmaster stood looking out of the window, and 
when the caliche had driven off, he turned to his wife, 
exclaiming : 

"Pakhomovna, do you know who that was? That was 
Doubrovsky ! " 

The postmistress rushed towards the window, but it was 
too late. Doubrovsky was already a long way off. Then 
she began to scold her husband. 

** You have no fear of God. Why did you not tell me 
sooner, I should at least have had a glimpse of Doubrovsky. 
But now I shall have to wait long enough before I get a 
chance of seeing him again. Shameless creature that you 

The Frenchman stood as if petrified. The agreement 
with the officer, the money — everything seemed like a 
dream to him. But the bundle of bank notes was there in 
his pocket, eloquently confirming the reality of the wonder- 
ful adventure. 

He resolved to hire horses to take him to the next town. 
The postilion drove him very slowly, and he reached the 
town at nightfall. 

On approaching the barrier, where, in place of a sentinel, 
stood a dilapidated sentry-box, the Frenchman told the 
postilion to stop, got out of the britchka and proceeded on 
foot, explaining by signs to the driver that he might keep the 
vehicle and the portmanteau and buy brandy with them. 
The driver was as much astonished at his generosity as the 
Frenchman himself had been by Doubrovsky's proposal. 


But concluding that the " German " ^ had taken leave of his 
senses, the driver thanked him with a very profound bow, and 
not caring about entering the town, he made his way to a 
house of entertainment that was well known to him, and the 
proprietor of which was a friend of his. There he passed 
the whole night, and the next morning he started back on 
his return journey with the troika^ without the britchka and 
without the portmanteau, but with a swollen face and red 

Doubrovsky, having possession of the Frenchman's papers, 
boldly appeared, as we have already seen, at the house of 
Troekouroff, and there estabHshed liimself. Whatever were 
his secret intentions — we shall know them later on — th^Ye 
was nothing in his behaviour to excite suspicion. It is 
true that he did not occupy himself very much with 
the education of little Sasha, to whom he allowed full 
liberty, nor was he very exacting in the matter of his lessons, 
which were only given for form's sake, but he paid great 
attention to the musical studies of his fair pupil, and 
frequently sat for hours beside her at the piano. 

Everybody liked the young tutor : Kirila Petrovitch for 
his boldness and dexterity in the hunting-field ; Maria 
Kirilovna for his unbounded zeal and^lavish attentiveness ; 
Sasha for his tolerance, and the members of the household 
for his kindness and generosity, apparently incompatible 
with his means. He himself seemed to be attached to the 
whole family, and already regarded himself as a member 
of it. 

About a monfh had elapsed from the time of his entering 
upon the calling of tutor to the date of the memorable fete, 
and nobody suspected that the modest young Frenchman 

' A general name for all foreigners in Russia. 



was in reality the terrible brigand whose name was a source 
of terror to all the landed proprietors of the neighbourhood. 
During all this time, Doubrovsky had never quitted Pokrov- 
skoe, but the reports of his depredations did not cease for 
all that, thanks to the inventive imagination of the country 
people. It is possible, too, that his band may have con- 
tinued their exploits during the absence of the chief. 

Passing the night in the same room with a man whom he 
could only regard as a personal enemy, and one of the prin- 
cipal authors of his misfortune, Doubrovsky had not been 
able to resist temptation. He knew of the existence of the 
pouch, and had resolved to take possession of it. 

We have seen how he frightened poor Anton Pafnoutitch 
by his unexpected transformation from a tutor into a 




AT nine o'clock in the morning, the guests who had! 
passed the night at Pokrovskoe repaired one after the 
other to the sitting-room, where the tea-urn was already boil- 
ing, and before which sat Maria Kirilovna in a morning 
gown, and Kirila Petrovitch in a frieze coat and slippers, 
drinking his tea out of a large cup like a wash-hand basin. 

The last to appear was Anton Pafnoutitch; he was so 
pale, and seemed so troubled, that everybody was struck 
by his appearance, and Kirila Petrovitch inquired after his 
health. Spitsin replied in an evasive manner, glaring with 
horror at the tutor, who sat there as if nothing had happened. 
A few minutes afterwards a servant entered and announced to 
Spitsin that his carriage was ready. Anton Pafnoutitch 
hastened to take his leave of the company, and then hurried 
out of the room and started off immediately. The guests 
and the host could not understand what had happened to 
him, and Kirila Petrovitch came to the conclusion that he 
was suffering from an attack of indigestion. 

After tea and the farewell breakfast, the other guests 
began to take their leave, and soon Pokrovskoe became 
empty, and everything went on in the usual manner. 

Several days passed, and nothing remarkable had hap- 
pened. The life of the inhabitants of Pokrovskoe became 
very monotonous. Kirila Petrovitch went out hunting 
every day; while Maria Kirilovna devoted her time to 
reading, walking, and especially to musical exercises. She 


was beginning to understand her own heart, and acknow- 
ledged to herself with involuntary vexation that she was not 
indifferent to the good qualities of the young Frenchman. 
He, on his side, never overstepped the limits of respect and 
strict decorum, and thereby quieted her pride and her 
timid suspicions. With more and more confidence she 
gave herself up to the alluring habit of seeing him. She 
felt dull without Desforges, and in his presence she was con- 
stantly occupied with him, wishing to know his opinion of 
everything, and always agreeing with him. She was not yet 
in love with him perhaps; but at the first accidental 
obstacle or unexpected reverse of destiny, the flame of 
passion would burst forth within her heart. 

One day, on entering the parlour, where the tutor awaited 
her, Maria Kirilovna observed with astonishment that he 
looked pale and troubled. She opened the piano and sang 
a few notes ; but Doubrovsky, under the pretext of a head- 
aches, apologized, interrupted the lesson, closed the music, 
and slipped a note into her hand. Maria Kirilovna, with- 
out pausing to reflect, took it, and repented almost at the 
same moment for having done so. But Doubrovsky was no 
longer in the room. Maria Kirilovna went to her room, un- 
folded the note, and read as follows : 

** Be in the arbour near the brook this evening, at seven 
o^clock : it is necessary that I should speak to you." 

Her curiosity was strongly excited. She had long ex- 
pected a declaration, desiring it and dreading it at one and 
the same time. It would have been agreeable to her to 
hear the confirmation of what she divined ; but she felt that 
it would have been unbecoming to hear such a declaration 
from a man who, on account of his position, ought never to 
aspire to win her hand. She resolved to go to the meeting- 
place, but she hesitated about one thing : in what manner 
she ought to receive the tutor's declaration — with aristocratic 

224 POUSHKIN'S prose TALES. 

indignation, with friendly admonition, with good-humoured 
banter, or with silent sympathy. In the meantime she kept 
constantly looking at the clock. It grew dark : candles 
were brought in. Kirila Petrovitch sat down to play at 
" Boston " ^ with some of his neighbours who had come to 
pay him a visit. The clock struck a quarter to seven, 
and Maria Kirilovna walked quietly out on to the steps, 
looked round on every side, and then hastened into the 

The night was dark, the sky was covered with clouds, and 
it was impossible to see anything at a distance of two paces ; 
but Maria Kirilovna went forward in the darkness along 
paths that were quite familiar to her, and in a few minutes 
she reached the arbour. There she paused in order to 
draw breath and to present herself before Desforges with an 
air of calm indifference. But Desforges already stood 
before her. 

" I thank you," he said in a low, sad voice, " for having 
granted my request. I should have been in despair if you 
had not complied with it." 

Maria Kirilovna answered him in the words she had 
prepared beforehand. 

" I hope you will not cause me tp repent of my con- 

He was silent, and seemed to be collecting himself. 

"Circumstances demand — I am obliged to leave you,*' 
he said at last. "It may be that you will soon hear — 
but before going away, I must have an explanation with 

Maria Kirilovna made no reply. In these words she saw 
the preface to the expected declaration. 

" I am not what you suppose," continued he, lowering his 

* A card game that was very popular on the Continent at the 
beginning of the present century. 


head: **I am not the Frenchman Desforges — I am Doa- 

Maria Kirilovna uttered a cry. 

" Do not be alarmed, for God's sake ! You need not be 
afraid of my name. Yes, I am that unhappy person, whom 
your father, after depriving him of his last crust of bread, 
drove out of his paternal home and sent on to the highway 
to rob. But you need not be afraid, either on your own 
account or on his. All is over. ... I have forgiven him ; 
you have saved him. My first crime of blood was to have 
been accomplished upon him. I prowled round his house, 
determining where the fire should burst out, where I should 
enter his bedroom, and how I should cut him off from all 
means of escape ; at that moment you passed by me like a 
^ heavenly vision, and my heart was subdued. I understood 
that the house, in which you dwelt, was sacred ; that not a 
single person, connected with you by the ties of blood, 
could He beneath my curse. I looked upon vengeance as 
madness, and dismissed the thought of it from my mind. 
Whole days I wandered around the gardens of Pokrovskoe, 
in the hope of seeing your white robe in the distance. In 
your incautious walks I followed you, stealing from bush to 
bush, happy in the thought that for you there was no danger, 
where I was secretly present. At last an opportunity pre- 
sented itself. ... I established myself in your house. 
Those three weeks were for me days of happiness; the 
recollection of them will be the joy of my sad life. . . 
To-day I received news which renders it impossible for me 
to remain here any longer. I part from you to-day — at this 
very moment. . . . But before doing so, I felt that it was 
necessary that I should reveal myself to you, so that you 
might not curse me nor despise me. Think sometimes ot 
Doubrovsky. Know that he was born for another fate, that 
his soul was capable of loving you, that never " 

226 POUSHKIN'S prose TALES. 

Just then a loud whistle resounded, and Doubrovsky 
became silent. He seized her hand and pressed it to his 
burning lips. The whistle was repeated. 

** Farewell," said Doubrovsky : " they are calling me. • A 
moment's delay may destroy me." 

He moved away. . . . Maria Kirilovna stood motionless. 
Doubrovsky returned and once more took her by the hand. 

"If misfortune should ever overtake you, and you are 
unable to obtain help or protection from anybody, will you 
promise to apply to me, to demand from me everything 
that may be necessary for your happiness ? Will you pro- 
mise not to reject my devotion ? " 

Maria Kirilovna wept silently. The whistle resounded 
for the third time. 

" You will destroy me ! " cried Doubrovsky : " but I will 
not leave you until you give me a reply. Do you promise 
me or not ? " 

" I promise ! " murmured the poor girl. 

Greatly agitated by her interview with Doubrovsky, Maria 
Kirilovna returned from the garden. As she approached 
the house, she perceived a great crowd of people in the 
courtyard ; a troika was standing in front of the steps, the 
servants were running hither and thither, and the whole 
house was in a commotion. In the distance she heard the 
voice of Kirila Petrovitch, and she hastened to reach her 
room, fearing that her absence might be noticed. Kirila 
Petrovitch met her in the hall. The visitors were pressing 
round our old acquaintance the sheriff, and were over- 
whelming him with questions. The sherifif, in travelling 
dress, and armed from head to foot, answered them with a 
mysterious and anxious air. 

" Where have you been, Masha ? " asked Kirila Petrovitch. 
" Have you seen Monsieur Desforges ? " 

Masha could scarcely answer in the negative. 


'* Just imagine," continued Kirila Petrovitch : " the 
sheriff has come to arrest him, and assures me that he is 

"He answers the description in every respect, Your 
Excellency," said the sheriff respectfully. 

" Oh ! brother," interrupted Kirila Petrovitch, " go to — 
you know where — with your descriptions. I will not sur- 
render my Frenchman to you until I have investigated the 
matter myself. How can anyone believe the word of Anton 
Pafnoutitch, a coward and a clown ? He must have dreamt 
that the tutor wanted to rob him. Why didn't he tell me 
about it the next morning? He never said a word about 
the matter. 

"The Frenchman threatened him. Your Excellency," 
replied the sheriff, "and made him swear that he would 
preserve silence." 

" A pack of lies ! " exclaimed Kirila Petrovitch : " I will 
have this mystery cleared up immediately. Where is the 
tutor?" he asked of a servant who entered at that moment. 

" He cannot be found anywhere," repUed the servant. 

" Then search for him ! " cried Troekouroff, beginning to 
entertain doubts. 

"Show me your vaunted description," said he to the 
sheriff, who immediately handed him the paper. 

" Hm ! hm ! twenty-three years old, etc., etc. That is so, 
but yet that does not prove anything. Well, what about the 

" He is not to be found," was again the answer. 

Kirila Petrovitch began to be uneasy; Maria Kirilovna 
was neither dead nor alive. 

"You are pale, Masha," remarked her father to her; 
" have they frightened you ? " 

" No, papa," repHed Masha ; " I have a headache." 

"Go to your own rQpm, Masha, and don't be alarmed." 



Masha kissed his hand and retired hastily to her room. 
There she threw herself upon her bed and burst into a hysteri- 
cal flood of tears. The maids hastened to her assistance, 
undressed her with difficulty, and with difficulty succeeded 
in calming her by means of cold water and all possible kinds 
of smelling salts. They put her to bed and she fell into a 

In the meantime the Frenchman could not be found. 
Kirila Petrovitch paced up and down the room, loudly 
whistling his favourite military air. The visitors whispered 
among themselves ; the sheriff looked foolish ; the French- 
man was not to be found. Probably he had managed to 
escape through being warned beforehand. But by whom 
and how ? That remained a mystery. 

It was eleven o'clock, but nobody thought of sleep. At 
last Kirila Petrovitch said angrily to the sheriff : 

" Well, do you wish to stop here till daylight ? My house 
is not an inn. It is not by any cleverness on your part, 
brother, that Doubrovsky will be taken — if he really be 
Doubrovsky. Return home, and in future be a little 
quicker. And it is time for you to go home, too," he con- 
tinued, addressing his guests. " Order the horses to be got 
ready. I want to go to bed." 

In this ungracious manner did Troekouroff take leave of 
his guests. 



SOME time elapsed without anything remarkable happen- 
ing. But at the beginning of the following summer, 
many changes occurred in the family arrangements of Kirila 

About thirty versts from Pokrovskoe was the wealthy 
estate of Prince Vereisky. The Prince had lived abroad for 
a long time, and his estate was managed by a retired major. 
No intercourse existed between Pokrovskoe and Arbatova. 
But at the end of the month of May, the Prince returned 
from abroad and took up his abode in his own village, which 
he had never seen since he was born. Accustomed to social 
pleasures, he could not endure solitude, and the third day 
after his arrival, he set out to dine with Troekouroff, with 
whom he had formerly been acquainted. The Prince was 
about fifty years of age, but he looked much older. Excesses 
of every kind had ruined his health, and had placed upon 
him their indelible stamp. In spite of that, his appearance 
was agreeable and distinguished, and his having always been 
accustomed to society gave him a certain afifabihty of 
demeanour, especially towards ladies. He had a constant 
need of amusement, and he was a constant victim to 

Kirila Petrovitch was exceedingly gratified by this visit, 
which he regarded as a mark of respect from a man who 
knew the world. In accordance with his usual custom, he 
began to entertain his visitor by conducting him to inspect 
his establishments and kennels. But the Prince could hardly 

230 poushkin's prose tales. 

breathe in the atmosphere of the dogs, and he hurried out, 
holding a scented handkerchief to his nose. The old garden, 
with its clipped limes, square pond and regular walks, did 
not please him ; he did not like the English gardens and the 
so-called natural style, but he praised them and went into 
ecstasies over everything. The servant came to announce 
that dinner was served, and they repaired to the dining- 
room. The Prince limped, being fatigued after his walk, and 
already repenting for having paid his visit. 

But in the dining-hall Maria Kirilovna met them — and 
the old sensualist was struck by her beauty. Troekouroff 
placed his guest beside her. The Prince was resuscitated by 
her presence; he became quite cheerful, and succeeded 
several times in arresting her attention by the recital of 
some of his curious stories. After dinner Kirila Petrovitch 
proposed a ride on horseback, but the Prince excused him- 
self, pointing to his velvet boots and joking about his gout. 
He proposed a drive in a carriage, so that he should not be 
, separated from his charming neighbour. The carriage was 
got ready. The two old men and the beautiful young girl 
took their seats in it, and they started off. The conversa- 
tion did not flag. Maria Kirilovna listened with pleasure to 
the flattering compliments and witty remarks of the man of 
the world, when suddenly Vereisky, turning to Kirila 
Petrovitch, said to him : " What is the meaning of that 
burnt building — does it belong to you ? " 

Kirila Petrovitch frowned: the memories awakened by 
the burnt manor-house were disagreeable to him. He 
replied that the land was his now, but that formerly it had 
belonged to Doubrovsky. 

" To Doubrovsky ? " repeated Vereisky. " What ! to the 
famous brigand ? " 

"To his father," replied Troekourofl": "and the father 
himself was a true brigand," 


"And what has become of our Rinaldo? Have they 
caught him ? Is he still alive ? " 

" He is still alive and at liberty. By the way, Prince, 
Doubrovsky paid you a visit at Arbatova." 

" Yes, last year, I think, he burnt or plundered some- 
thing or other. Don't you think, Maria Kirilovna, that it 
would be very interesting to make a closer acquaintance 
with this romantic hero ? " 

"Interesting!" said TroekourofF: "she knows him 
already. He taught her music for three whole weeks, and 
thank God, took nothing for his lessons." 

Then Kirila Petrovitch began to relate the story of the 
pretended French tutof. Maria Kirilovna felt as if she 
were sitting upon needles. Vereisky, listening with deep 
attention, found it all very strange, and changed the subject 
of conversation. On returning from the drive, he ordered 
his carriage to be brought, and in spite of the earnest 
requests of Kirila Petrovitch to stay for the night, he took 
his departure immediately after tea. Before setting out, how- 
ever, he invited Kirila Petrovitch to pay him a visit and to 
bring Maria Kirilovna with him, and the proud Troekouroff 
promised to do so ; for taking into consideration his princely 
dignity, his two stars, and the three thousand serfs belong- 
ing to his estate, he regarded Prince Vereisky in some 
degree as his equal. 



TWO days after this visit, Kirila Petrovitch set out with 
his daughter for the abode of Prince Vereisky. On 
approaching Arbatova, he could not sufficiently admire the 
clean and cheerful-looking huts of the peasants, and the 
stone manor-house built in the style of an English castle. 
In front of the house stretched a close green lawn, upon 
which were grazing some Swiss cows tinkling their bells. A 
spacious park surrounded the house on every side. The 
master met the guests on the steps, and gave his arm to the 
young beauty. She was then conducted into a magnificent 
hall, where the table was laid for three. The Prince led his 
guests to a window, and a charming view opened out before 
them. The Volga flowed past the windows, and upon its 
bosom floated laden barges under full sail, and small fish- 
ing-boats known by the expressive name of *' soul- 
destroyers." Beyond the river stretched hills and fields, 
and several little villages animated the landscape. 

Then they proceeded to inspect the galleries of pictures 
bought by the Prince in foreign countries. The Prince 
explained to Maria Kirilovna their various characteristics, 
related the history of the painters, and pointed out their 
merits and defects. He did not speak of pictures in the 
pretentious language of the pedantic connoisseur, but with 
feeling and imagination. Maria Kirilovna listened to him 
with pleasure. 

They sat down to table. Troekouroff rendered full 
justice to the wines of his Amphytrion, and to the skill of 


his cook ; while Maria Kirilovna did not feel at all confused 
or constrained in her conversation with a man whom she 
now saw for the second time in her Hfe. After dinner the 
host proposed to his guests that they should go into the 
garden. They drank coffee in the arbour on the bank of a 
broad lake studded with little islands. Suddenly resounded 
the music of wind instruments, and a six-oared boat drew 
up before the arbour. They rowed on the lake, round the 
islands, and visited some of them. On one they found a 
marble statue ; on another, a lonely grotto ; on a third, a 
monument with a mysterious inscription, which awakened 
within Maria Kirilovna a girlish curiosity not completely 
satisfied by the polite but reticent explanations of the 
Prince. The time passed imperceptibly. It began to grow 
dark. The Prince, under the pretext of the cold and the 
dew, hastened to return to the house, where the tea-urn 
awaited them. The Prince requested Maria Kirilovna to 
discharge the functions of hostess in his bachelor's home. 
She poured out the tea, listening to the inexhaustible stories 
of the charming talker. Suddenly a shot was heard, and a 
rocket illuminated the sky. The Prince gave Maria 
Kirilovna a shawl, and led her and Troekouroff on to the 
balcony. In front of the house, in the darkness, different 
coloured fires blazed up, whirled round, rose up in sheaves, 
poured out in fountains, fell in showers of rain and stars, 
went out and then burst into a blaze again. Maria 
Kirilovna was as delighted as a child. Prince Vereisky was 
delighted with her enjoyment, and Troekouroff was very 
well satisfied with him, for he accepted tons les frais of the 
Prince as signs of respect and a desire to please him. 

The supper was quite equal to the dinner in every respect. 
Then the guests retired to the rooms assigned to them, and 
the next morning took leave of their amiable host, promising 
each other soon to meet again. 



MARIA KIRILOVNA was sitting in her room, em- 
broidering at her frame before the open window. 
She did not entangle her threads like Conrad's mistress, who, 
in her amorous distraction, embroidered a rose with green 
silk. Under her needle, the canvas repeated unerringly the 
design of the original ; but in spite of that, her thoughts did 
not follow her work — they were far away. 

Suddenly an arm passed silently through the window, 
placed a letter upon the frame and disappeared before 
Maria Kirilovna could recover herself. At the same 
moment a servant entered to call her to Kirila Petrovitch. 
Trembling very much, she hid the letter under her fichu 
and hastened to her father in his study. 

Kirila Petrovitch was not alone. Prince Vereisky was 
sitting in the room with him. On the appearance of Maria 
Kirilovna, the Prince rose and silently bowed, with a con- 
fusion that was quite unusual in him. 

" Come here, Masha," said Kirila Petrovitch : " I have a 
piece of news to tell you which I hope will please you very 
much. Here is a sweetheart for you : the Prince proposes 
for your hand." 

Masha was dumfounded; a deadly pallor overspread 
her countenance. She was silent. The Prince approached 
her, took her hand, and with a tender look, asked her if she 
would consent to make him happy. Masha remained 

"Consent? Of course she will consent," said Kirila 


Petrovitch ; " but you know, Prince, it is difficult for a girl 
to say such a word as that. Well, children, kiss one 
another and be happy." 

Masha stood motionless ; the old Prince kissed her hand. 
Suddenly the tears began to stream down her pale cheeks. 
The Prince frowned slightly. 

'*Go, go, go!" said Kirila Petrovitch : "dry your tears 
and come back to us in a merry humour. They all weep at 
the moment of being betrothed," he continued, turning to 
Vereisky; "it is their custom. Now, Prince, let us talk 
about business, that is to say, about the dowry." 

Maria Kirilovna eagerly took advantage of the permission 
to retire. She ran to her room, locked herself in and gave 
way to her tears, already imagining herself the wife of the 
old Prince. He had suddenly become repugnant and hate- 
ful to her. Marriage terrified her, like the block, like the 

" No, no," she repeated in, despair ; "I would rather go 
into a convent, I would rather marry Doubrovsky . . . ." 

Then she remembered the letter and eagerly began to 
read it, having a presentiment that it was from him. In 
fact, it was written by him, and contained only the following 
words : 

'^This evening, at ten o'clock, in the same place as 

The moon was shining ; the night was calm ; the wind 
rose now and then, and a gentle rustle ran over the garden. 

Like a light shadow, the beautiful young girl drew near to 
the appointed meeting-place. Nobody was yet visible, 
when suddenly, from behind the arbour, Doubrovsky ap 
peared before her. 

" I know all," he said to her in a low, sad voice ; " re- 
member your promise." 

" You offer me your protection," replied Masha ; " do 

236 poushkin's prose tales. 

not be angry — but the idea alarms me. In what way can 
you help me ? " 

*' I can deliver you from a detested man . . ." 

" For God's sake, do not touch him, do not venture to 
touch him, if you love me. I do not wish to be the cause 
of any horror . . ." 

" I will not touch him : your wish is sacred for me. He 
owes his life to you. Never shall a crime be committed in 
your name. You shall not be stigmatized on account of 
my misdeeds. But how can I save you from a cruel 

" There is still hope ; I hope to touch him with my tears 
— my despair. He is obstinate, but he loves me very 

*' Do not put your trust in a vain hope. In those tears 
he will see only the usual timidity and aversion common to 
all young girls, when they marry from motives of interest 
and not from affection. But if he takes it into his head to 
accomplish your happiness in spite of yourself ? If you are 
conducted to the altar by force, in order that your destiny 
may be placed for ever in the hands of an old man ? " » 

" Then — then there will be nothing else to do. Come 
for me — I will be your wife." 

Doubrovsky trembled ; his pale face became covered 
with a deep flush, and the next minute he became paler 
than before. He remained silent for a long time, with his 
head bent down. 

" Muster the full strength of your soul, implore your 
father, throw yourself at his feet ; represent to him all the 
horror of the future that he is preparing for you, your youth 
fading away by the side of a feeble and dissipated old man. 
Tell him that riches will not procure for you a single 
moment of happiness. Luxury consoles poverty alone, and 
even in that case only for a brief season. Do not be put 


off by him, and do not be frightened either by his anger or 
by his threats, as long as there remains the least shadow of 
hope. For God's sake do not leave off importuning him. 
If, however, you have no other resource left, decide upon a 
plain speaking explanation ; tell him that if he remains in- 
exorable, then — then you will find a terrible protector." 

Here Doubrovsky covered his face with his hands; he 
seemed to be choking. Masha wept. 

" My miserable, miserable fate ! " said he, with a bitter 
sigh. " For you I would have given my life. To see you 
from afar, to touch your hand was for me happiness beyond 
expression ; and when there opens up before me the possi- 
bility of pressing you to my agitated heart, and saying to 
you : * I am yours for ever * — miserable creature that I am ! 
I must fly from such happiness, I must repel it from me 
with all my strength. I dare not throw myself at your feet 
and thank Heaven for an incomprehensible, unmerited 
reward. Oh ! how I ought to hate him who — but I feel 
that now there is no place in my heart for hatred." 

He gently passed his arm round her slender figure and 
pressed hen tenderly to his heart. She confidingly leaned 
her head upon the young brigand's shoulder and both re- 
mained silent. . . . The time flew past. 

" It is time," said Masha at last. 

Doubrovsky seemed as if awakening from a dream. He 
took her hand and placed a ring on her finger. 

" If you decide upon having recourse to me," said he, 
" then bring the ring here and place it in the hollow of this 
oak. I shall know what to do." 

Doubrovsky kissed her hand and disappeared among the 



PRINCE VEREISKY'S intention of getting married 
was no longer a secret in the neighbourhood. Kirila 
Petrovitch received the congratulations of his acquaintances, 
and preparations were made for the wedding. Masha post- 
poned from day to day the decisive explanation. In the 
meantime her manner towards her elderly lover was cold 
and constrained. The Prince did not trouble himself 
about that ; the question of love gave him no concern ; her 
silent consent was quite sufficient for him. 

But the time went past. Masha at last decided to act, 
and wrote a letter to Prince Vereisky. She tried to awaken 
within his heart a feeling of magnanimity, candidly confess- 
ing that she had not the least attachment for him, and en- 
treating him to renounce her hand and even to protect her 
from the tyranny of her father. She furtively delivered the 
letter to Prince Vereisky. The latter read it alone, but was 
not in the least moved by the candour of his betrothed. 
On the contrary, he perceived the necessity of hastening the 
marriage, and therefore he showed the letter to his future 

Kirila Petrovitch was furious, and it was with difficulty 
that the Prince succeeded in persuading him not to let 
Masha see that he was acquainted with the contents of the 
letter. Kirila Petrovitch promised not to speak about the 
matter to her, but he resolved to lose no time and fixed the 
wedding for the next day. The Prince found this very 
reasonable, and he went to his betrothed and told her that 


her letter had grieved him very much, but that he hoped 
in time to gain her affection ; that the thought of resigning 
her was too much for him to bear, and that he had not the 
strength to consent to his own sentence of death. Then 
he kissed her hand respectfully and took his departure, 
without saying a word to her about Kirila Petrovitch's 

But scarcely had he left the house, when her father entered 
and peremptorily ordered her to be ready for the next day. 
Maria Kirilovna, already agitated by the interview with 
Prince Vereisky, burst into tears and threw herself at her 
father's feet. 

" Papa ! " she cried in a plaintive voice, " papa ! do not 
destroy me. I do not love the Prince, I do not wish to be 
his wife." 

" What does this mean ? " said Kirila Petrovitch, fiercely. 
" Up till the present you have kept silent and consented, 
and now, when everything is decided upon, you become 
capricious and refuse to accept him. Don't act the fool ; 
you will gain nothing from me by so doing." 

" Do not destroy me !" repeated poor Masha. ** Why are 
you sending me away from you and giving me to a man that 
I do not love ? Do I weary you ? I want to stay with you 
as before. Papa, you will be sad without me, and sadder 
still when you know that I am unhappy. Papa, do not force 
me : I do not wish to marry." 

Kirila Petrovitch was touched, but he concealed his 
emotion, and pushing her away from him, said harshly : 

" That is all nonsense, do you hear ? I know better than 
you what is necessary for your happiness. Tears will not 
help you. The day after to-morrow your wedding will take 

'' The day after to-morrow ! " exclaimed Masha. " My 
God ! No, no, impossible ; it cannot be ! Papa, hear me • 


if you have resolved to destroy me, then I will find a pro- 
tector that you do not dream of. You will see, and then you 
will regret having driven me to despair." 

" What ? What ? " said Troekouroff. " Threats ! threats 
to me ? Insolent girl I Do you know that I will do with 
you what you little imagine. You dare to frighten me, you 
worthless girl ! We will see who this protector will be," 

** Vladimir Doubrovsky," replied Masha, in despair. 

Kirila Petrovitch thought that she had gone out of her 
mind, and looked at her in astonishment. 

" Very well ! " said he to her, after an interval of silence ; 
" expect whom you please to deliver you, but, in the mean- 
time, remain^n this room — you shall not leave it till the very 
moment of the wedding." 

With these words Kirila Petrovitch went out, locking the 
door behind him. 

For a long time the poor girl wept, imagining all that 
awaited her. But the stormy interview had lightened her 
soul, and she could more calmly consider the question of 
her future and what it behoved her to do. The principal 
thing was — to free herself from this odious marriage. The 
lot of a brigand's wife seemed paradise to her in comparison 
with the fate prepared for her. She glanced at the ring given 
to her by Doubrovsky. Ardently did she long to see him 
alone once more before the decisive moment, so that 
she might concert measures with him. A presentiment told 
her that in the evening she would find Doubrovsky in the 
garden, near the arbour; she resolved to go and wait for him 

As soon as it began to grow dark, Masha prepared to 
carry out her intention, but the door of her room was 
locked. Her maid told her from the other side of the door, 
that Kirila Petrovitch had given orders that she was not to 
be let out. She was under arrest. Deeply hurt, she sat 


down by the window and remained there till late in the 
night, without undressing, gazing fixedly at the dark sky. 
Towards dawn she began to doze ; but her light sleep was 
disturbed by sad visions, and she was soon awakened by the 
rays of the rising sun. 




SHE awoke, and all the horror of her position rose up in 
her mind. She rang. The maid entered, and in 
answer to her questions, replied that Kirila Petrovitch 
had set out the evening before for Arbatova, and had 
returned very late ; that he had given strict orders that she 
was not to be allowed out of her room and that nobody was 
to be permitted to speak to her ; that otherwise, there were 
no signs of any particular preparations for the wedding, ex- 
cept that the pope had been ordered not to leave the village 
under any pretext whatever. After disburdening herself of 
this news, the maid left Maria Kirilovna and again locked 
the door. 

Her words hardened the young prisoner. Her head 
burned, her blood boiled. She resolved to inform Dou- 
brovsky of everything, and she began to think of some 
means by which she could get the ring conveyed to the hole in 
the sacred oak. At that moment a stone struck against her 
window ; the glass rattled, and Maria Kirilovna, looking out 
into the courtyard, saw the little Sasha making signs to her. 
She knew that he was attached to her, and she was pleased 
to see him. 

" Good morning, Sasha ; why do you call me ? " 

" I came, sister, to know if you wanted anything. Papa is 
angry, and has forbidden the whole house to obey you ; but 
order me to do whatever you like, and I will do it for you." 

" Thank you, my dear Sasha. Listen ; you know the old 
hollow oak near the arbour ? " 


" Yes, I know it, sister." 

** Then, if you love me, run there as quickly as you can 
and put this ring in the hollow ; but take care that nobody 
sees you." 

With these words, she threw the ring to him and closed 
the window. 

The lad picked up the ring, and ran off with all his might, 
and in three minutes he arrived at the sacred tree. There 
he paused, quite out of breath, and after looking round on 
every side, placed the ring in the hollow. Having success- 
fully accomplished his mission, he wanted to inform Maria 
Kirilovna of the fact at once, when suddenly a red-haired 
ragged boy darted out from behind the arbour, dashed 
towards the oak and thrust his hand into the hole. Sasha, 
quicker than a squirrel, threw himself upon him and seized 
him with both hands. 

"What are you doing here?" said he sternly. 

" What business is that of yours ? " said the boy, trying to 
disengage himself. 

" Leave that ring alone, red head," cried Sasha, '* or I will 
teach you a lesson in my own style." 

Instead of replying, the boy gave him a blow in the face 
with his fist ; but Sasha still held him firmly in his grasp, and 
cried out at the top of his voice : 

" Thieves ! thieves ! help ! help ! " 

The boy tried to get away from him. He seemed to 
be about two years older than Sasha, and very much 
stronger; but Sasha was more agile. They struggled to- 
gether for some minutes; at last the red-headed boy 
gained the advantage. He threw Sasha upon the ground 
and seized him by the throat. But at that moment a 
strong hand grasped hold of his shaggy red hair, and 
Stepan, the gardener, lifted him half a yard from the 


" Ah ! you red-headed beast ! " said the gardener. '* How 
dare you strike the young gentleman ? " 

In the meantime, Sasha had jumped to his feet and 
recovered himself. 

" You caught me under the arm-pits," said he, " or you 
would never have thrown me. Give me the ring at once and 
be off." 

** It's likely ! " replied the red-headed one, and suddenly 
twisting himself round, he disengaged his bristles from 
Stepan's hand. 

Then he started off running, but Sasha overtook him, 
gave him a blow in the back, and the boy fell. The 
gardener again seized him and bound him with his 

" Give me the ring ! " cried Sasha. 

"Wait a moment, young master," said Stepan; *'we will 
lead him to the baihff to be questioned." 

The gardener led the captive into the courtyard of the 
manor-house, accompanied by Sasha, who glanced uneasily 
at his trousers, torn and stained with the grass. Suddenly all 
three found themselves face to face with Kirila Petrovitch, 
who was going to inspect his stables. 

" What is the meaning of this ? " he said to Stepan. 

Stepan in a few words related all that had happened. 

Kirila Petrovitch listened to him with attention. 

" You rascal," said he, turning to Sasha : " why did you 
wrestle with him ? " 

" He stole a ring out of the hollow tree, papa; make him 
give up the ring." 

" What ring ? Out of what hollow tree ? " 

"The one that Maria Kirilovna . . . the ring. . . ." 
Sasha stammered and became confused. Kirila Petrovitch 
frowned and said, shaking his head : 

" Ah ! Maria Kirilovna is mixed up in this. Confess 


everything, or I will give you such a birching as you have 
never had in your life." 

"As true as heaven, papa, I . . . papa . . . Maria 
Kirilovna never told me to do anything, papa." 

" Stepan, go and cut me some fine, fresh birch twigs." 

" Stop, papa, I will tell you all. I was running about the 
courtyard to-day, when sister Maria Kirilovna opened the 
window.^ I ran towards her, and she accidentally dropped 
a ring, and I went and hid it in the hollow tree, and . . . and 
this red-headed fellow wanted to steal the ring." 

" She did not drop it accidentally, — you wanted to hide 
it . . . Stepan, go and get the birch twigs." 

"Papa, wait, I will tell you everything. Sister Maria 
Kirilovna told me to run to the oak tree and put the ring in 
the hollow ; I ran and did so, but this nasty fellow " 

Kirila Petrovitch turned to the " nasty fellow " and said 
to him sternly : 

" To whom do you belong ? " 

" I belong to my master Doubrovsky." 

Kirila Petrovitch's face grew dark. 

"It seems, then, that you do not recognize me as your 
master. Very well. What were you doing in my garden ? " 

" I was stealing raspberries." 

" Ah, ah ! the servant is like his master As the pope is, 
so is his parish. And do my raspberries grow upon oak 
trees ? Have you ever heard so ? " 

The boy did not reply. 

" Papa, make him give up the ring," said Sasha. 

" Silence, Alexander ! " replied Kirila Petrovitch ; " don't 
forget that I intend to settle with you presently. Go to 
your room. And you, squint-eyes, you seem to me to be a 
knowing sort of lad ; if you confess everything to me, I will 
not whip you, but will give you a five copeck piece to buy 
nuts with. Give up the ring and go." 


The boy opened his fist and showed that there was 
nothing in his hand. 

" If you don't, I shall do something to you that you little 
expect. Now ! " 

The boy did not answer a word, but stood with his head 
bent down, looking Hke a perfect simpleton. 

"Very well!" said Kirila Petrovitch : "lock him up 
somewhere, and see that he does not escape, or I'll skin the 
whole household." 

Stepan conducted the boy to the pigeon loft, locked him 
in there, and ordered the old poultry woman, Agatha, to 
keep a watch upon him. ^ 

" There is no doubt about it : she has kept up intercourse 
with that accursed Doubrovsky. But if she has really invoked 

his aid " thought Kirila Petrovitch, pacing up and down 

the room, and angrily whistling his favourite air, " I am 

hot upon his track, at all events, and he shall not escape 
me. We shall take advantage of this opportunity. . . . 
Hark ! a bell ; thank God, that is the sheriff. Bring here 
the boy that is locked up." 

In the meantime, a small telega drove into the courtyard, 
and our old acquaintance, the sheriff, entered the room, all 
covered with dust. 

" Glorious news ! " said Kirila Petrovitch : " I have caught 

" Thank God, Your Excellency ! " said the sheriff, his 
face beaming with delight. " Where is he ? " 

"That is to say, not Doubrovsky himself, but one of his 
band. He will be here presently. He will help us to 
apprehend his chief. Here he is." 

The sheriff, who expected to see some fierce-looking 
brigand, was astonished to perceive a lad of thirteen years of 
age, of somewhat delicate appearance. He turned to Kirila 
Petrovitch with an incredulous look, and awaited an ex- 


planation. Kirila Petrovitch then began to relate the events 
of the morning, without, however, mentioning the name of 
Maria Kirilovna. 

The sheriff listened to him attentively, glancing from time 
to time at the young rogue, who^ assuming a look of im- 
becility, seemed to be paying no attention to all that was 
going on around him. 

" Will Your Excellency allow me to speak to you apart ? " 
said the sheriff at last. 

Kirila Petrovitch conducted him into the next room and 
locked the door after him. 

Half an hour afterwards they returned to the hall, where 
the captive was awaiting the decision respecting his fate. 

"The master wished," said the sheriff to him, *'to have 
you locked up in the town gaol, to be whipped, and then to 
be sent to the convict settlement ; but I interceded for you 
and have obtained your pardon. Untie him i" 

The lad was unbound. 

" Thank the master," said the sheriff. 

The lad went up to Kirila Petrovitch and kissed his 

"Run away home," said Kirila Petrovitch to him, "and 
in future do not steal raspberries from oak trees." 

The lad went out, ran merrily down the steps, and with- 
out looking behind him, dashed off across the fields in the 
direction of Kistenevka. On reaching the village, he 
stopped at a half-ruined hut, the first from the corner, and 
tapped at the window. The window was opened, and an 
old woman appeared. 

" Grandmother, some bread ! " said the boy : " I have 
eaten nothing since this morning ; I am dying of hunger." 

" Ah ! it is you, Mitia ; ^ but where have you been all this 
time, you little devil ? " asked the old woman. 
^ Diminutive of Dimitry (Demetrius). 

248 poushkin's prose tales. 

"I will tell you afterwards, grandmother. For God's 
sake, some bread ! " 

" Come into the hut, then." 

" I haven't the time, grandmother ; I've got to run on to 
another place. Bread, for the Lord's sake, bread ! " 

"What a fidget !" grumbled the old woman : ** there's a 
piece for you," and she pushed through the window a slice 
of black bread. 

The boy bit it with avidity, and then continued his course, 
eating it as he went. 

It was beginning to grow dark. Mitia made his way 
along by the corn kilns and kitchen gardens into the 
Kistenevka wood. On arriving at the two pine trees, 
standing hke advanced guards before the wood, he paused, 
looked round on every side, gave a shrill, abrupt whistle, 
and then listened. A light and prolonged whistle was 
heard in reply, and somebody came out of the wood and 
advanced towards him. v 



KIRILA PETROVITCH was pacing up and down the 
hall, whistling his favourite air louder than usual. 
The whole house was in a commotion ; the servants were 
running about, and the maids were busy. In the courtyard 
there was a crowd of people. In Maria Kirilovna*s dressing- 
room, before the looking-glass, a lady, surrounded by maid- 
servants, was attiring the pale, motionless young bride. 
Her head bent languidly beneath the weight of her diamonds; 
she started slightly when a careless hand pricked her, but 
she remained silent, gazing absently into the mirror. 

"Aren't you nearly finished?" said the voice of Kirila 
Petrovitch at the door. 

"In a minute!" replied the lady. "Maria Kirilovna, 
get up and look at yourself. Is everything right ? " 

Maria Kirilovna rose, but made no reply. The door was 

" The bride is ready," said the lady to Kirila Petrovitch ; 
"order the carriage." 

" With God ! " replied Kirila Petrovitch, and taking a 
sacred image from the table, " Approach, Masha," said he, 
in a voice of emotion ; " I bless you . . ." 

The poor girl fell at his feet and began to sob. 

" Papa . . . papa . . ." she said through her tears, and 
then her voice failed her. 

Kirila Petrovitch hastened to give her his blessing. She 
was raised up and almost carried into the carriage. Her 
godmother and one of the maidservants got in with her, 


and they drove off to the church. There the bridegroom 
was already waiting for them. He came forward to meet 
the bride, and was struck by her pallor and her strange look. 
They entered the cold deserted church together, and the 
door was locked behind them. The priest came out from 
the altar, and the ceremony at once began. 

Maria Kirilovna saw nothing, heard nothing; she had 
been thinking of but one thing the whole morning : she ex- 
pected Doubrovsky ; nor did her hope abandon her for one 
moment. But when the priest turned to her with the 
usual question, she started and felt faint; but still she 
hesitated, still she expected. The priest, without waiting 
for her reply, pronounced the irrevocable words. 

The ceremony was over. She felt the cold kiss of her 
hated husband ; she heard the flattering congratulations of 
those present ; and yet she could not believe that her' life 
was bound for ever, that Doubrovsky had not arrived to 
deliver her. The Prince turned to her with tender words — 
she did not understand them. They left the church; in 
the porch was a crowd of peasants from Pokrovskoe. Her 
glance rapidly scanned them, and again she exhibited her 
former insensibility. The newly-married couple seated 
themselves in the carriage and drove off to Arbatova, 
whither Kirila Petrovitch had already gone on before, in 
order to welcome the wedded pair there. 

Alone with his young wife, the Prince was not in the 
least piqued by her cold manner. He did not begin to 
weary her with amorous protestations and ridiculous en- 
thusiasm ; his words were simple and required no answer. 
In this way they travelled about ten versts. The horses 
dashed rapidly along the uneven country roads, and the 
carriage scarcely shook upon its English springs. Suddenly 
were heard cries of pursuit. The carriage stopped, and a 
crowd of armed men surrounded it. A man in a half-mask 


opened the door on the side where the young Princess sat, 
and said to her : 

"You are free! Alight." 

"What does this mean?" cried the Prince. "Who are 
you that " 

" It is Doubrovsky," replied the Princess. • 

The Prince, without losing his presence of mind, drew 
from his side pocket a travelling pistol and fired at the 
masked brigand. The Princess shrieked, and, filled with 
horror, covered her face with both her hands. Doubrovsky 
was wounded in the shoulder ; the blood was flowing. The 
Prince, without losing a moment, drew another pistol; but 
he was not allowed time to fire ; the door was opened, and 
several strong arms dragged him out of the carriage and 
snatched the pistol from him. Above him flashed several 

"Do not touch him I" cried Doubrovsky, and his terrible 
associates drew back. 

" Your are free ! " continued Doubrovsky, turning to the 
pale Princess. 

" No ! " replied she ; " it is too late ! I am married. I 
am the wife of Prince Vereisky." 

*'What do you say?" cried Doubrovsky in despair. 
" No ! you are not his wife. You were forced, you could 
never have consented." 

" I have consented, I have taken the oath," she answered 
with firmness. "The Prince is my husband; give orders 
for him to be set at liberty, and leave me with him. I have 
not deceived you. I waited for you till the last moment 
. . . but now, I tell you, now, it is too late. Let us g®." 

But Doubrovsky no longer heard her. The pain of his 
wound, and the violent emotion of his mind had deprived 
him of all power over himself. He fell against the wheel ; 
the brigands surrounded him. He managed to say a few 


words to them. They placed him on horseback; two of 
them held him up, a third took the horse by the bridle, and 
all withdrew from the spot, leaving the carriage in the 
middle of the road, the servants bound, the horses un- 
harnessed, but without carrying anything away with them, 
and without shedding one drop of blood in revenge for the 
blood of their chief. 



IN the middle of a dense wood, on a narrow grass-plot, 
rose a small earthwork, consisting of a rampart and 
ditch, behind which were some huts and tents. Within the 
inclosed space, a crowd of persons who, by their varied 
garments and by their arms, could at once be recognized as 
brigands, were having their dinner, seated bareheaded 
around a large cauldron. On the rampart, by the side of a 
small cannon, sat a sentinel, with his legs crossed under 
him. He was sewing a patch upon a certain part of his 
attire, handling his needle with a dexterity that bespoke the 
experienced tailor, and every now and then raising his head 
and glancing round on every side. 

Although a certain ladle had passed from hand to hand 
several times, a strange silence reigned among this crowd. 
The brigands finished their dinner ; one after another rose 
and said a prayer to God ; some dispersed among the huts, 
others strolled away into the wood or lay down to sleep, 
according to the Russian habit. 

The sentinel finished his work, shook his garment, gazed 
admiringly at the patch, stuck the needle in his sleeve, sat 
astride the cannon, and began to sing a melancholy old 
song with all the power of his lungs. 

At that moment the door of one of the huts opened, and 
an old woman in a white cap, neatly and even pretentiously 
dressed, appeared upon the threshold, 

"Enough of that, Stepka,"^ said she angrily. "The 
* Diminutive of Stepan (Stephen). 

254 poushkin's prose tales. 

master is sleeping, and yet you must make that frightful 
noise ; you have neither conscience nor pity." 

" I beg pardon, Petrovna," replied Stepka. " I won't 
do it any more. Let our little father sleep on and get 

The old woman withdrew into the hut, and Stepka began 
to pace to and fro upon the rampart. 

Within the hut, from which the old woman had emerged, 
lay the wounded Doubrovsky upon a cold bed behind a 
partition. Before him, upon a small table, lay his pistols, 
and a sword hung near his head. The mud hut was hung 
round and covered with rich carpets. In the corner was a 
lady's silver toilet and mirror. Doubrovsky held in his hand 
an open book, but his eyes were closed, and the old woman, 
peeping at him from behind the partition, could not tell 
whether he was asleep or only thinking. 

Suddenly Doubrovsky started. In the fort there was a 
great commotion, and Stepka came and thrust his head in 
through the window of the hut. 

" Father Vladimir Andreivitch ! " he cried ; " our men 
are signalling — they are on our track ! " 

Doubrovsky leaped from his bed, seized his arms and 
issued from the hut. The brigands were noisily crowding 
together in the inclosure, but on the appearance of their 
chief a deep silence reigned. 

*' Are all here? " asked Doubrovsky. 

" All except the patrols," was the reply. 

"To your places !" cried Doubrovsky, and the brigands 
took up each his appointed place. 

At that moment, three of the patrols ran up to the gate 
of the fort. Doubrovsky went to meet them. 

"What is it?" he asked. 

"The soldiers are in the wood," was the reply; *'they 
^re surrounding us," 


Doubrovsky ordered the gate to be locked, and then 
went himself to examine the cannon. In the wood could 
be heard the sound of many voices, every moment drawing 
nearer and nearer. The brigands waited in silence. Sud- 
denly three or four soldiers appeared from the wood, but 
immediately fell back again, firing their guns as a signal to 
their comrades. 

" Prepare for battle ! " cried Doubrovsky. There was a 
movement among the brigands, then all was silent again. 

Then was heard the noise of an approaching column ; 
arms glittered among the trees, and about a hundred and 
fifty soldiers dashed out of the wood and rushed with a wild 
shout towards the rampart. Doubrovsky applied the match 
to the cannon; the shot was successful — one soldier had 
his head shot off, and two others were wounded. The 
troops were thrown into confusion, but the officer in com- 
mand rushed forward, the soldiers followed him and jumped 
down into the ditch. The brigands fired down at them 
with muskets arid pistols, and then, with axes in their hands, 
they began to defend the rampart, up which the infuriated 
soldiers were now climbing, leaving twenty of their com- 
rades wounded in the ditch below. A hand to hand 
struggle began. The soldiers were already upon the 
rampart, the brigands were beginning to give way; but 
Doubrovsky advanced towards the officer in command, pre- 
sented his pistol at his breast, and fired. The officer fell 
backwards to the ground. Several soldiers raised him in 
their arms and hastened to carry him into the wood ; the 
others, having lost their chief, stopped fighting. The em- 
boldened brigands took advantage of this moment of hesi- 
tation, and surging forward, hurled their assailants back 
into the ditch. The besiegers began to run ; the brigands 
with fierce yells started in pursuit of them. The victory 
was decisive. Doubrovsky, trusting to the complete con- 

256 poushkin's prose tales. 

fusion of the enemy, stopped his followers and shut himself 
up in the fortress, doubled the sentinels, forbade anyone to 
absent himself, and ordered the wounded to be collected. 

This last event drew the serious attention of the govern- 
ment to the daring exploits of Doubrovsky. Information 
was obtained of his place of retreat, and a detachment of 
soldiers was sent to take him, dead or alive. Several of his 
band were captured, and from these it was ascertained that 
Doubrovsky was no longer among them. A few days after 
the battle that we have just described, he collected all his 
followers and informed them that it was his intention to 
leave them for ever, and advised them to change their mode 
of life: 

" You have become rich under my command. Each of 
you has a passport with which he will be able to make his 
way safely to some distant province, where he can pass the 
rest of his Hfe in ease and honest labour. But you are all 
rascals, and probably do not wish to abandon your trade." 

After this speech he left them, taking with him only one 
of his followers. Nobody knew what became of him. At 
first the truth of this testimony was doubted, for the devo- 
tion of the brigands to their chief was well known, and it was 
supposed that they had concocted the story to secure hiss 
safety ; but after events confirmed their statement. The 
terrible visits, burnings, and robberies ceased; the roads 
again became safe. According to another report, Doubrovsky 
had fled ^o some foreign country. 




THERE was a card party at the rooms of Naroumoff 
of the Horse Guards. The long winter night passed 
away imperceptibly, and it was five o'clock in the morning 
before the company sat down to supper. Those who had 
won, ate with a good appetite ; the others sat staring absently 
at their empty plates. When the champagne appeared, 
however, the conversation became more animated, and all 
took a part in it.^. 

" And how (fid you fare, Sourin ? " asked the host. 

" Oh, I lost, as usual. I must confess that I am unlucky : 
I play mirandole, I always keep cool, I never allow any- 
thing to put me out, and yet I always lose ! " 

" And you did not once allow yourself to be tempted to 
back the red? . . . Your firmness astonishes me." 

" But what do you think of Hermann ? " said one of the 

guests, pointing to a young Engineer : " he has never had a 

card in his hand in his life, he has never in his life laid a 

wager, and yet he sits here till five o'clock in the morning 

I watching our play." 

" Play interests me very much," said Hermann : " but I 
am not in the position to sacrifice the necessary in the hope 
of winning the superfluous." 

I " Hermann is a German : he is economical — that is all ! " 
observed Tomsky. " But if there is one person that I can- 



not understand, it is my grandmother, the Countess Anna 

" How so ? " inquired the guests. 

" I cannot understand," continued Tomsky, " how it is 
that my grandaiother does not punt." 

" What is there remarkable about an old lady of eighty 
not punting?" said Naroumoff. 

" Then you do not know the reason why ? " 

" No, really ; haven't the faintest idea." 

" Oh ! then listen. You must know that, about sixty years 
ago, my grandmother went to Paris, where she created quite 
a sensation. People used to run after her to catch a glimpse 
of the ' Muscovite Venus.' Richelieu made love to her, and 
my grandmother maintains that he almost blew out his 
brains in consequence of her cruelty. At that time ladies 
used to play at faro. On one occasion at the Court, she lo3t 
a very considerable sum to the Duke of Orleans. On 
returning home, my grandmother removed the patches from 
her face, took off her hoops, informed my grandfather of her 
loss at the gaming-table, and ordered him to pay the money. 
My deceased grandfather, as far as I remember, was a sort 
of house-steward to my grandmother. He dreaded her like 
fire ; but, on hearing of such a heavy loss, he almost went 
out of his mind ; he calculated the various sums she had 
lost, and pointed out to her that in six months she had 
spent half a miUion of francs, that neither their Moscow nor 
Saratoff estates were in Paris, and finally refused point blank 
to pay the debt. My grandmother gave him a box on the 
ear and slept by herself as a sign of her displeasure; The 
next day she sent for her husband, hoping that this domestic 
punishment had produced an effect upon him, but she found 
him inflexible. For the first time in her life, she entered 
into reasonings and explanations with him, thinking to be 
able to convince him by pointing out to him that there are 


debts and debts, and that there is a great difference between 
a Prince and a coachmaker. But it was all in vain, my 
grandfather still remained obdurate. But the matter did not 
rest there. My grandmother did not know what to do. She 
had shortly before become acquainted with a very remark- 
able man. You have heard of Count St. Germain, about 
whom so many marvellous stories are told. You know that 
he represented himself as the Wandering Jew, as the dis- 
coverer of the elixir of life, of the philosopher's stone, and so 
forth. Some laughed at him as a charlatan ; but Casanova, 
in his memoirs, says that he was a spy. But be that as it^ 
may, St. Germain, in spite of the mystery surrounding him, 
was a very fascinating person, and was much sought after in 
the best circles of society. Even to this day ray grandmother 
retains an affectionate recollection of him, and becomes 
quite angry if anyone speaks disrespectfully of him. My 
grandmother knew that St. Germain had large sums of 
money at his disposal She resolved to have recourse to 
him, and she wrote a letter to him asking him to come to 
her without delay. The queer old man immediately waited 
upon her and found her overwhelmed with grief. She 
described to him in the blackest colours the barbarity of her 
husband, and ended by declaring that her whole hope 
depended upon his friendship and amiability. 

" St. Germain reflected. 

*^ * I could advance you the sum you want,' said he ; * but 
I know that you would not rest easy until you had paid me 
back, and I should not hke to bring fresh troubles upon 
you. But there is another way of getting out of your 
difficulty : you can win back your money.' 

" * But, my dear Count,' replied my grandmother, * I tell 
you that I haven't any money left.' 

" * Money is not necessary,' replied St. Germain : ' be 
pleased to listen to me,* 


" Then he revealed to her a secret, for which each of us 
would give a good deal . . ." 

The young officers listened with increased attention. 
Tomsky lit his pipe, puffed away for a moment and then 
continued : 

** That same evening my grandmother went to Versailles 
to the^V^ de la reine. The Duke of Orleans kept the bank ; 
my grandmother excused herself in an off-handed manner 
for not having yet paid her debt, by inventing some little 
story, and then began to play against him. She chose three 
cards and played them one after the other : all three won 
sonika^ and my grandmother recovered every farthing that 
she had lost." 

" Mere chance ! " said one of the guests. 

" A tale ! " observed Hermann. 

** Perhaps they were marked cards ! " said a third. 

" I do not think so," replied Tomsky gravely. 

" What ! " said Naroumoff, ** you have a grandmother 
who knows how to hit upon three lucky cards in succession, 
and you have never yet succeeded in getting the secret of it 
out of her ? " 

'' That's the deuce of it ! " replied Tomsky : " she had 
four sons, one of whom was my father ; all four were deter- 
mined gamblers, and yet not to one of them did she ever 
reveal her secret, although it would not have been a bad 
thing either for them or for me.» But this is what I Jieard 
from my uncle. Count Ivan Hitch, and he assured me, on 
his honour, that it was true. The late Chaplitsky — the same 
who died in poverty after having squandered millions — once 
lost, in his youth, about three hundred thousand roubles — 
to Zoritch, if I remember rightly. He was in despair. My 
grandmother, who was always very severe upon the extrava- 

^ Said of a card when it wins or loses in the quickest possible time. 


gance of young men, took pity, however, upon Chaplitsky. 
She gave him three cards, telling him to play them one after 
the other, at the same time exacting from him a solemn 
promise that he would never play at cards again as long as 
he lived. Chaplitsky then went to his victorious opponent, 
and they began a fresh game. On the first card he staked 
fifty thousand roubles and won sonika ; he doubled the 
stake and won again, till at last, by pursuing the same tactics, 
he won back more than he had lost ... 

" But it is time to go to bed : it is a quarter to six 

And indeed it was already beginning to dawn: the 
young men emptied their glasses and then took leave of each 




THE old Countess A was seated in her dressing- 
room in front of her looking-glass. Three waiting 
maids stood around her. One held a small pot of rouge, 
another a box of hair-pins, and the third a tall cap with 
bright red ribbons. The Countess had no longer the 
slightest pretensions to beauty, but she still preserved the 
habits of her youth, dressed in strict accordance with the 
fashion of seventy years before, and made as long and as 
careful a toilette as she would have done sixty years pre- 
viously. Near the window, at an embroidery frame, sat a 
young lady, her ward. 

" Good morning, grandmamma," said a young officer, 
entering the room. " Bonjour, Mademoiselle Lise. Grand- 
mamma, I want to ask you something." 

"What is it, Paul?" 

" I want you to let me introduce one of my friends 
to you, and to allow me to bring him to the ball on 

" Bring him direct to the ball and introduce him to me 
there. Were you at B 's yesterday ? " 

" Yes ; everything went off very pleasantly, and dancing 
was kept up until five o'clock. How charming Eletskaia 

" But, my dear, what is there charming about her ? Isn't 
she like her grandmother, the Princess Daria Petrovna? 
By the way, she must be very old, the Princess Daria 


** How do you mean, old ? " cried Tomsky thoughtlessly ; 
"she died seven years ago." 

The young lady raised her head and made a sign to the 
young officer. He then remembered that the old Countess 
was never to be informed of the death of any of her con- 
temporaries, and he bit his lips. But the old Countess 
heard the news with the greatest indifference. 

" Dead ! " said she ; " and I did not know it. We were 
appointed maids of honour at the same time, and when we 
were presented to the Empress. . . ." 

And the Countess for the hundredth time related to her 
grandson one of her anecdotes. 

" Come, Paul," said she, when she had finished her story, 
" help me to get up. Lizanka,^ where is my snuff-box ? " 

And the Countess with her three maids went behind a 
screen to finish her toilette. Tomsky was left alone with 
the young lady. 

"Who is the gentleman you wish to introduce to the 
Countess ? " masked Lizaveta Ivanovna in a whisper. 

^* Naroumoff. Do you know him ?" 

" No. Is he a soldier or a civilian ? " 

"A soldier." 

** Is he in the Engineers ? *' 

" No, in the Cavalry. What made you think that he was 
in the Engineers ? " 

The young lady smiled, but made no reply. 

" Paul," cried the Countess from behind the screen, 
" send me some new novel, only pray don't let it be one of 
the present day style." 

" What do you mean, grandmother ? " 

*' That is, a novel, in which the hero strangles neither his 
father nor his mother, and in which there are no drowned 
bodies. I have a great horror of drowned persons." 

^ Diminutive of Lizaveta (Elizabeth). 


"There are no such novels nowadays. Would you like a 
Russian one ? " 

" Are there any Russian novels ? Send me one, my dear, 
pray send me one ! " 

" Good-bye, grandmother : I am in a hurry. . . . Good- 
bye, Lizaveta Ivanovna. What made you think that Narou- 
moff was in the Engineers?" 

And Tomsky left the boudoir. 

Lizaveta Ivanovna was left alone : she laid aside her 
work and began to look out of the window. A few moments 
afterwards, at a comer house on the other side of the street, 
a young officer appeared. A deep blush covered her cheeks ; 
she took up her work again and bent her head down over 
the frame. At the same moment the Countess returned 
completely dressed. 

"Order the carriage, Lizaveta," said she; "we will go 
out for a drive." 

Lizaveta arose from the frame and began to arrange her 

"What is the matter with you, my child, are you deaf?" 
cried the Countess. " Order the carriage to be got ready at 

"I will do so this moment," replied the young lady, 
hastening into the ante-room. 

A servant entered and gave the Countess some books 
from Prince Paul Alexandrovitch. 

"Tell him that I am much obliged to him," said the 
Countess. " Lizaveta ! Lizaveta ! where are you running 

" I am going to dress." 

"There is plenty of time, my dear. Sit down here, 
Open the first volume and read to me aloud." 

Her companion took the book and read a few lines. 

" Louder," said the Countess. " What is the matter with 


you, my child ? Have you lost your voice ? Wait — give 
me that footstool — a little nearer — that will do ! " 

Lizaveta read two more pages. The Countess yawned. 

'* Put the book down," said she : " what a lot of nonsense ! 
Send it back to Prince Paul with my thanks. . . . But where 
is the carriage ? " 

" The carriage is ready," said Lizaveta, looking out into 
the street. 

" How is it that you are not dressed ? " said the Countess : 
** I must always wait for you. It is intolerable, my dear ! " 

Liza hastened to her room. She had not been there two 
minutes, before the Countess began to ring with all her 
might. The three waiting-maids came running in at one 
door and the valet at another. 

''How is it that you cannot hear me when I ring for 
you ? " said the Countess. " Tell Lizaveta Ivanovna that I 
am waiting for her." 

Lizaveta returned with her hat and cloak on. 

" At last yO'u are here ! " said the Countess. *' But why 
such an elaborate toilette? Whom do you intend to 
captivate? What sort of weather is it? It seems rather 

" No, Your Ladyship, it is very calm," replied the valet. 

"You never think of what you are talking about. Open 
the window. So it is : windy and bitterly cold. Unharness 
the horses. Lizaveta, we won't go out — there was no need 
for you to deck yourself like that." 

" What a life is mine ! " thought Lizaveta Ivanovna. 

And, in truth, Lizaveta Ivanovna was a very unfortunate 
creature. " The bread of the stranger is bitter," says Dante, 
**and his staircase hard to climb." But who can know 
what the bitterness of dependence is so well as the poor 

companion of an old lady of quality ? The Countess A  

had by no means a bad heart, but she was capricious, like a 

268 poushkin's prose tales. 

woman who had been spoilt by the world, as well as being 
avaricious and egotistical, like all old people who have seen 
their best days, and whose thoughts are with the past and 
not the present. She participated in all the vanities of the 
great world, went to balls, where she sat in a corner, painted 
and dressed in old-fashioned style, like a deformed but in- 
dispensable ornament of the ball-room ; all the guests on 
entering approached her and made a profound bow, as if in 
accordance with a set ceremony, but after that nobody took 
any further notice of her. She received the whole town at 
her house, and observed the strictest etiquette, although she 
could no longer recognize the faces of people. Her nu- 
merous domestics, growing fat and old in her ante-chamber 
and servants' hall, did just as they liked, and vied with each 
other in robbing the aged Countess in the most bare-faced 
manner. Lizaveta Ivanovna was the martyr of the house- 
hold. She made tea, and was reproached with using too 
much sugar; she read novels aloud to the Countess, and 
the faults of the author were visited upon her head ; she 
accompanied the Countess in her walks, and was held 
answerable for the weather or the state of the pavement. 
A salary was attached to the post, but she very rarely 
received it, although she was expected to dress like every- 
body else, that is to say, like very few indeed. In society 
she played the most pitiable role. Everybody knew her, 
and nobody paid her any attention. At balls she danced 
only when a partner was wanted, and ladies would only take 
hold of her arm when it was necessary to lead her out of 
the room to attend to their dresses. She was very self- 
conscious, and felt her position keenly, and she looked about 
her with impatience for a deliverer to come to her rescue ; 
but the young men, calculating in their gi44«Tess, honoured 
her with but very little attention, although Lizaveta Ivanovna 
was a hundred times prettier than the bare-faced and cold- 


hearted marriageable girls around whom they hovered. 
Many a time did she quietly slink away from the glittering 
but wearisome drawing-room, to go and cry in her own poor 
little room, in which stood a screen, a chest of drawers, a 
looking-glass and a painted bedstead, and where a tallow 
candle burnt feebly in a copper candle-stick. 

One morning — this was about two days after the evening 
party described at the beginning of this story, and a week 
previous to the scene at which we have just assisted — 
Lizaveta Ivanovna was seated near the window at her 
embroidery frame, when, happening to look out into the 
street, she caught sight of a young Engineer officer, standing 
motionless with his eyes fixed upon her window. She 
lowered her head and went on again with her work. About 
five minutes afterwards she looked out again — the young 
officer was still standing in the same place. Not being in 
the habit of coquetting with passing officers, she did not 
continue to gaze out into the street, but went on sewing for 
a couple of hours, without raising her head. Dinner was 
announced. She rose up and began to put her embroidery 
away, but glancing casually out of the window, she perceived 
the officer again. This seemed to her very strange. After 
dinner she went to the window with a certain feeling of 
uneasiness, but the officer was no longer there — and she 
thought no more about him. 

A couple of days afterwards, just as she was stepping into 
the carriage with the Countess, she saw him again. He was 
standing close behind the door, with his face half-concealed 
by his fur collar, but his dark eyes sparkled beneath his cap. 
Lizaveta felt alarmed, though she knew not why, and she 
trembled as she seated herself in the carriage. 

On returning home, she hastened to the window — 
the officer was standing in his accustomed place, with 
his. eyes fixed upon Uer. She drew back, a prey to 

270 poushkin's prose tales. 

curiosity and agitated by a feeling which was quite new to 

From that time forward not a day passed without the 
young officer making his appearance under the window 
at the customary hour, and between him and her there was 
estabUshed a sort of mute acquaintance. Sitting in her 
place at work, she used to feel his approach ; and raising her 
head, she would look at him longer and longer each day. 
The young man seemed to be very grateful to her : she saw 
with the sharp eye of youth, how a sudden flush covered his 
pale cheeks each time that their glances met. After about a 
week she commenced to smile at him. . . . 

When Tomsky asked permission of his grandmother the 
Countess to present one of his friends to her, the young 
girl's heart beat violently. But hearing that Naroumoff was 
not an Engineer, she regretted that by her thoughtless 
question, she had betrayed her secret to the volatile 

Hermann was the son of a German who had become 
a naturalized Russian, and from whom he had inherited 
a small capital. Being firmly convinced of the necessity of 
preserving his independence, Hermann did not touch his 
private income, but lived on his pay, without allowing him- 
self the slightest luxury. Moreover, he was reserved and 
ambitious, and his companions rarely had an opportunity of 
making merry at the expense of his extreme parsimony. He 
had strong passions and an ardent imagination, but his firm- 
ness of disposition preserved him from the ordinary errors of 
young men. Thus, though a gamester at heart, he never 
touched a card, for he considered his position did not allow 
him — as he said — "to risk the necessary in the hope of 
winning the superfluous," yet he would sit for nights together 
at the card table and follow with feverish anxiety the different 
turns of the game. 


The story of the three cards had produced a powerful impres- 
sion upon his imagination, and all night long he could think 
of nothing else " If," he thought to himself the following 
evening, as he walked along the streets of St. Petersburg, 
" if the old Countess would but reveal her secret to me ! if 
she would only tell me the names of the three winning cards. 
Why should I not try my fortune ? I must get introduced to 
her and win her favour — become her lover. . . . But all that 
will take time, and she is eighty- seven years old : she might 
be dead in a week, in a couple of days even ! . . . But the 
story itself: can it really be true? ... No ! Economy, 
temperance and industry : those are my three winning cards ; 
by means of them I shall be able to double my capital — in- 
crease it sevenfold, and procure for myself ease and inde- 

Musing in this manner, he walked on until he found him- 
self in one of the principal streets of St. Petersburg, in front 
of a house of antiquated architecture. The street was blocked 
with equipages ; carriages one after the other drew up in front 
of the brilliantly illuminated doorway. At one moment there 
stepped out on to the pavement the well-shaped little foot of 
some young beauty, at another the heavy boot of a cavalry 
officer, and then the silk stockijags and shoes of a member 
of the diplomatic world. Furs and cloaks passed in rapid 
succession before the gigantic porter at the entrance. 

Hermann stopped. " Who's house is this ?" he asked of 
the watchman at the corner. 

" The Countess A 's," replied the watchman. 

Hermann started. The strange story of the three cards 
again presented itself to his imagination. He began walking 
up and down before the house, thinking of its owner and her 
strange secret. Returning late to his modest lodging, he 
could not go to sleep for a long time, and when at last 
he did doze off, he could dream of nothing but cards, green 


tables, piles of banknotes and heaps of ducats. He played 
one card after the other, winning uninterruptedly, and then 
he gathered up the gold and filled his pockets with the notes. 
When he woke up late the next morning, he sighed over the 
loss of his imaginary wealth, and then sallying out into the 
town, he found himself once more in front of the Countess's 
residence. Some unknown power seemed to have attracted 
him thither. He stopped and looked up at the windowSo 
At one of these he saw a head with luxuriant black hair, 
which was bent down probably over some book or an 
embroidery frame. The head was raised. Hermann saw 
a fresh complexion and a pair of dark eyes. That moment 
decided his fate. 



LIZAVETA IVANOVNAhad scarcely taken off her hat 
and cloak, when the Countess sent for her and again 
ordered her to get the carriage ready. The vehicle drew up 
before the door, and they prepared to take their seats. Just 
at the moment when two footmen were assisting the old lady 
to enter the carriage, Lizaveta saw her Engineer standing 
close beside the wheel ; he grasped her hand ; alarm caused 
her to lose her presence of mind, and the young man 
disappeared — but not before he had left a letter between 
her fingers. She concealed it in her glove, and during 
the whole of the drive she neither saw nor heard anything. 
It was the cusfom of the Countess, when out for an airing in 
her carriage, to be constantly asking such questions as: 
"Who was that person that met us just now? What is the 
name of this bridge ? What is written on that signboard ?" 
On this occasion, however, Lizaveta returned such vague 
and absurd answers, that the Countess became angry with 

" What is the matter with you, my dear ? " she exclaimed. 
" Have you taken leave of your senses, or what is it ? Do 
you not hear me or understand what I say ? . . . . Heaven 
be thanked, I am still in my right mind and speak plainly 
enough !" 

Lizaveta Ivanovna did not hear her. On returning home 
she ran to her room, and drew the letter out of her glove: it 
was not sealed. Lizaveta read it. The letter contained a 
declaration of love ; it was tender, respectful, and copied 


word for word from a German novel. But Lizaveta did not 
know anything of the German language, and she was quite 

For all that, the letter caused her to feel exceedingly un- 
easy. For the first time in her life she was entering into 
secret and confidential relations with a young man. His 
boldness alarmed her. She reproached herself for her im- 
prudent behaviour, and knew not what to do. Should she 
cease to sit at the window and, by assuming an appearance of 
indifference towards him, put a check upon the young officer's 
desire for further acquaintance with her? Should she send 
his letter back to him, or should she answer him in a cold 
and decided manner? There was nobody to whom she 
could turn in her perplexity, for she had neither female 
friend nor adviser. ... At length she resolved to reply to 

She sat down at her little writing-table, took pen and 
paper, and began to think. Several times she began her 
letter, and then tore it up : the way she had expressed her- 
self seemed to her either too inviting or too cold and 
decisive. At last she succeeded in writing a few lines with 
which she felt satisfied. 

" I am convinced," she wrote, " that your intentions are 
honourable, and that you do not wish to offend me by any 
imprudent behaviour, but our acquaintance must not begin 
in such a manner. I return you your letter, and I hope 
that I shall never have any cause to complain of this un- 
deserved slight." 

The next day, as soon as Hermann made his appearance, 
Lizaveta rose from her embroidery, went into the drawing- 
room, opened the ventilator and threw the letter into the 
street, trusting that the young officer would have the percep- 
tion to pick it up. 

Hermann hastened forward, picked it up and then repaired 


to a confectioner's shop. Breaking the seal of the envelope, 
he found inside it his own letter and Lizaveta's reply. He 
had expected this, and he returned home, his mind deeply 
occupied with his intrigue. 

Three days afterwards, a bright-eyed young girl from a 
milliner's establishment brought Lizaveta a letter. Lizaveta 
opened it with great uneasiness, fearing that it was a demand 
for money, when suddenly she recognized Hermann's hand- 

"You have made a mistake, my dear," said she: "this 
letter is not for me." 

"Oh, yes, it is for you," replied the girl, smiling very 
knowingly. " Have the goodness to read it." 

Lizaveta glanced at the letter. Hermann requested an 

" It cannot be," she cried, alarmed at the audacious 
request, and the manner in which it was made. "This 
letter is certainly not for me." 

And she tore it into fragments. 

" If the letter was not for you, why have you torn it up ? * 
said the girl. " I should have given it back to the person 
who sent it." 

" Be good enough, my dear," said Lizaveta, disconcerted 
by this remark, " not to bring me any more letters for the 
future, and tell the person who sent you that he ought to be 
ashamed. ..." 

But Hermann was not the man to be thus put off. Every 
day Lizaveta received from him a letter, sent now in this 
way, now in that. They were no longer translated from the 
German. Hermann wrote them under the inspiration of 
passion, and spoke in his own language, and they bore full 
testimony to the inflexibility of his desire and the disordered 
condition of his uncontrollable imagination. Lizaveta no 
longer thought of sending them back to him : she became 

2/6 poushkin's prose tales. 

intoxicated with them and began to reply to them, and little 
by little her answers became longer and more affectionate. 
At last she threw out of the window to him the following 
letter : 

** This evening there is going to be a ball at the Embassy. 
The Countess will be there. We shall remain until two 
o'clock. You have now an opportunity of seeing me alone. 
As soon as the Countess is gone, the servants will very pro- 
bably go out, and there will be nobody left but the Swiss, 
but he usually goes to sleep ih his lodge. Come about half- 
past eleven. Walk straight upstairs. If you meet anybody 
in the ante-room, ask if the Countess is at home. You will 
be told * No,' in which case there will be nothing left for you 
to do but to go away again. But it is most probable that 
you will meet nobody. The maidservants will all be 
together in one room. On leaving the ante-room, turn to 
the left, and walk straight on until you reach the Countess's 
bedroom. In the bedroom, behind a screen, you will find 
two doors : the one on the right leads to a cabinet, which 
the Countess never enters ; the one on the left leads to a 
corridor, at the end of which is a little winding staircase ; 
this leads to my room." 

Hermann trembled like a tiger, as he waited for the 
appointed time to arrive. At ten o'clock in the evening he 
was already in front of the Countess's house. The weather 
was terrible ; the wind blew with great violence ; the sleety 
snow fell in large flakes ; the lamps emitted a feeble light, 
the streets were deserted ; from time to time a sledge, drawn 
by a sorry-looking hack, passed by, on the look-out for a 
belated passenger. Hermann was enveloped in a thick over- 
coat, and felt neither wind nor snow. 

At last the Countess's carriage drew up. Hermann saw 
two footmen carry out in their arms the bent form of the old 
lady, wrapped in sable fur, and immediately behind her, cla< 


in a warm mantle, and with her head ornamented with a 
wreath of fresh flowers, followed Lizaveta. The door was 
closed. The carriage rolled away heavily through the yield- 
ing snow. The porter shut the street-door; the windows 
became dark. 

Hermann began walking up and down near the deserted 
house ; at length he stopped under a lamp, and glanced at 
his watch : it was twenty minutes past eleven. He remained 
standing under the lamp, his eyes fixed upon the watch, 
impatiently waiting for the remaining minutes to pass. At 
half-past eleven precisely, Hermann ascended the steps of 
the house, and made his way into the brightly-illuminated 
vestibule. The porter was not there. Hermann hastily 
ascended the staircase, opened the door of the ante-room 
and saw a footman sitting asleep in an antique chair by the 
side of a lamp. With a light firm step Hermann passed by 
him. The drawing-room and dining-room were in darkness, 
but a feeble reflection penetrated thither from the lamp in 
the ante-roon\^ 

Hermann reached the Countess's bedroom. Before a 
shrine, which was full of old images, a golden lamp was 
burning. Faded stufled chairs and divans with soft cushions 
stood in melancholy symmetry around the room, the walls 
of which were hung with China silk. On one side of the 
room hung two portraits painted in Paris by Madame 
Lebrun. One of these represented a stout, red-faced man 
of about forty years of age in a bright-green uniform and 
with a star upon his breast; the other — a beautiful young 
woman, with an aquiline nose, forehead curls and a rose in 
lier powdered hair. In the corners stood porcelain shepherds 
and shepherdesses, dining-room clocks from the workshop 
of the celebrated Lefroy, bandboxes, roulettes, fans and the 
various playthings for the amusement of ladies that were in 


vogue at the end of the last century, when Montgolfier's 
balloons and Mesmer's magnetism were the rage. Hermann 
stepped behind the screen. At the back of it stood a little 
iron bedstead ; on the right was the door which led to the 
cabinet ; on the left — the other which led to the corridor. 
He opened the latter, and saw the little winding staircase 
which led to the room of the poor companion. . . . But he 
retraced his steps and entered the dark cabinet. 

The time passed slowly. All was still. The clock in the 
drawing-room struck twelve; the strokes echoed through 
the room one after the other, and everything was quiet 
again. Hermann stood leaning against the cold stove. He 
was calm; his heart beat regularly, like that of a man 
resolved upon a dangerous but inevitable undertaking. 
One o'clock in the morning struck; then, two; and he 
heard the distant noise of carriage-wheels. An involuntary 
agitation took possession of him. The carriage drew near 
and stopped. He heard the sound of the carriage-steps 
being let down. All was bustle within the house. The- 
servants were running hither and thither, there was a con- 
fusion of voices, and the rooms were lit up. Three anti- 
quated chamber-maids entered the bedroom, and they were 
shortly afterwards followed by the Countess who, more dead 
than alive, sank into a Voltaire armchair. Hermann peeped 
through a chink. Lizaveta Ivanovna passed close by him, 
and he heard her hurried steps as she hastened up the Uttle 
spiral staircase. For a moment his heart way assailed by 
something like a pricking of conscience, but the emotion 
was only transitory, and his heart became petrified as before. 

The Countess began to undress before her looking-glass. 
Her rose-bedecked cap was taken off, and then her powdered 
wig was removed from off her white and closely-cut hair. 
Hairpins fell in showers around her. Her yellow satin dress, 
brocaded with silver, fell down at her swollen feet 


Hermann was a witness of the repugnant mysteries of her 
toilette; at last the Countess was in her night-cap and 
(hessing-gown, and in this costume, more suitable to her 
age, she appeared less hideous and deformed. 

Like all old people in general, the Countess suffered from 
sleeplessness. Having undressed, she seated herself at the 
window in a Voltaire armchair and dismissed her maids. 
The candles were taken away, and once more the room was 
left with only one lamp burning in it. The Countess sat 
there looking quite yellow, mumbhng with her flaccid lips 
and swaying to and fro. Her dull eyes expressed complete 
vacancy of mind, and, looking at her, one would have thought 
that the rocking of her body was not a voluntary action of 
her own, but was produced by the action of some concealed 
galvanic mechanism. 

Suddenly the death-like face assumed an inexplicable 
expression.' The lips ceased to tremble, the eyes be- 
came animated : before the Countess stood an unknown 

"Do not be alarmed, for Heaven's sake, do not be 
alarmed ! " said he in a low but distinct voice. " I have no 
intention of doing you any harm, I have only come to ask a 
favour of you." 

The old woman looked at him in silence, as if she had 

iOt heard what he had said. Hermann thought that she 

as deaf, and, bending down towards her ear, he repeated 

hat he had said. The aged Countess remained silent as 


"You can insure the happiness of my life" continued 
Hermann, " and it will cost you nothing. I know that you 
can name three cards in order " 

Hermann stopped. The Countess appeared now to 
understand what he wanted ; she seemed as if seeking for 
words to reply. 

28o poushkin's prose tales. 

" It was a joke," she replied at last : " I assure you it was 
only a joke." 

" There is no joking about the matter," replied Hermann 
angrily. " Remember Chaplitsky, whom you helped to win." 

The Countess became visibly uneasy. Her features ex- 
pressed strong emotion, but they quickly resumed their 
former immobility. 

*'Can you not name me these three winning cards?" 
continued Hermann. 

The Countess remained silent ; Hermann continued : 

" For whom are you preserving your secret ? For your 
grandsons ? They are rich enough without it ; they do not 
know the worth of money. Your cards would be of no use to 
a spendthrift. He who cannot preserve his paternal inheri- 
tance, will die in want, even though he had a demon at his 
service. I am not a man of that sort ; I know the value of 
money. Your three cards will not be thrown away upon 
me. Come!" . . . 

He paused and tremblingly awaited her reply. The 
Countess remained silent ; Hermann fell upon his knees. 

" If your heart has ever known the feeling of love," said 
he, " if you remember its rapture, if you have ever smiled at 
the cry of your new-born child, if any human feeling has 
ever entered into your breast, I entreat you by the feelings 
of a wife, a lover, a mother, by all that is most sacred in 
life, not to reject my prayer. Reveal to me your secret. 
Of what use is it to you ? . . . May be it is connected with 
some terrible sin, with the loss of eternal salvation, with 
some bargain with the devil. . . . Reflect, — you are old; 
you have not long to live — I am ready to take your sins 
upon my soul. Only reveal to me your secret. Remember 
that the happiness of a man is in your hands, that not only 
I, but my children, and grandchildren will bless your memory 
and reverence you as a saint. ..." 


The old Countess answered not a word. 

Hermann rose to his feet. 

" You old hag 1 " he exclaimed, grinding his teeth, " then 
I will make you answer ! " 

With these words he drew a pistol from his pocket. 

At the sight of the pistol, the Countess for the second 
time exhibited strong emotion. She shook her head and 
raised her hands as if to protect herself from the shot . . . 
then she fell backwards and remained motionless. 

" Come, an end to this childish nonsense ! " said Hermann, 
taking hold of her hand. "I ask you for the last time: 
will you tell me the names of your three cards, or will you 

The Countess made no reply. Hermann perceived that 
Bhe was dead ! 




LIZAVETA IVANOVNA was sitting in her room, still 
in her ball dress, lost in deep thought. On returning 
home, she had hastily dismissed the chambermaid who very 
reluctantly came forward to assist her, saying that she would 
undress herself, and with a trembling heart had gone up to 
her own room, expecting to find Hermann there, but yet 
hoping not to find him. At the first glance she convinced 
herself that he was not there, and she thanked her fate for 
having prevented him keeping the appointment. She sat 
down without undressing, and began to recall to mind all 
the circumstances which in so short a time had carried her 
so far. It was not three weeks since the time when she 
first saw the young officer from the window — and yet she 
was already in correspondence with him, and he had suc- 
ceeded in inducing her to grant him a nocturnal interview ! 
She knew his name only through his having written it at the 
bottom of some of his letters ; she had never spoken to him, 
had never heard his voice, and had never heard him spoken 
of until that evening. But, strange to say, that very evening 
at the ball, Tomsky, being piqued with the young Princess 

Pauline N , who, contrary to her usual custom, did not 

flirt with him, wished to revenge himself by assuming an air 
of indifference : he therefore engaged Lizaveta Ivanovna and 
danced an endless mazurka with her. During the whole of 
the time he kept teasing her about her partiality for Engineer 
officers; he assured her that he knew far more than she 
imagined, and some of his jests were so happily aimed, that 


Lizaveta thought several times that her secret was known to 

**From whom have you learnt all this?" she asked, 

"From a friend of a person very well known to you," 
replied Tomsky, " from a very distinguished man." 

" And who is this distinguished man ? " 

** His name is Hermann." 

Lizaveta made no reply ; but her hands and feet lost all 
sense of feeling. 

"This Hermann," continued Tomsky, "is a man of 
romantic personality. He has the profile of a Napoleon, and 
the soul of a Mephistopheles. I believe that he has at least 
three crimes upon his conscience . . . How pale you have 
become ! " 

" I have a headache . . . But what did this Hermann — 
or whatever his name is — tell you ? " 

" Hermann is very much dissatisfied with his friend : he 
says that in his place he would act very differently ... I 
even think that Hermann himself has designs upon you ; at 
least, he listens very attentively to all that his friend has to 
say about you." 

" And where has he seen me ? " 

"In church, perhaps; or on the parade — God alone 
knows where. It may have been in your room, while you 
were asleep, for there is nothing that he " 

Three ladies approaching him with the question : " oubli 
ou regret 2 " interrupted the conversation, which had become 
so tantalizingly interesting to Lizaveta. 

The lady chosen by Tomsky was the Princess Pauline 
herself. She succeeded in effecting a reconciliation with 
him during the numerous turns of the dance, after which he 
conducted her to her chair. On returning to his place, 
Tomsky thought no more either of Hermann or Lizaveta. 


She longed to renew the interrupted conversation, but the 
mazurka came to an end, and shortly afterwards the old 
Countess took her departure. 

Tomsky's words were nothing more than the customary 
small talk of the dance, but they sank deep into the soul of 
the young dreamer. The portrait, sketched by Tomsky, 
coincided with the picture she had formed within her own 
mind, and thanks to the latest romances, the ordinary 
countenance of her admirer became invested with attributes 
capable of alarming her and fascinating her imagination at 
the same time. She was now sitting with her bare arms 
crossed and with her head, still adorned with flowers, sunk 
upon her uncovered bosom. Suddenly the door opened 
and Hermann entered. She shuddered. 

" Where were you ? " she asked in a terrified whisper. 

" In the old Countess's bedroom," replied Hermann : " I 
have just left her. The Countess is dead." 

" My God ! What do you say ? " 

"And I am afraid," added Hermann, "that I am the 
cause of her death." 

Lizaveta looked at him, and Tomsky's words found an 
echo in her soul : " This man has at least three crimes upon 
his conscience ! " Hermann sat down by the window near 
her, and related all that had happened. 

Lizaveta listened to him in terror. So all those passionate 
letters, those ardent desires, this bold obstinate pursuit — all 
this was not love ! Money — that was what his soul yearned 
for ! She could not satisfy his desire and make him happy ! 
The poor girl had been nothing but the blind tool of a 
robber, of the murderer of her aged benefactress ! . . . She 
wept bitter tears of agonized repentance. Hermann gazed 
at her in silence : his heart, too, was a prey to violent 
emotion, but neither the tears of the poor girl, nor the 
wonderful charm of her beauty, enhanced by her grief, could 



produce any impression upon his hardened soul. He felt no 
pricking of conscience at the thought of the dead old 
woman. One thing only grieved him : the irreparable loss 
of the secret from which he had expected to obtain great 

" You are a monster ! " said Lizaveta at last. 

** I did not wish for her death," replied Hermann : " my 
pistol was not loaded." 

Both remained silent. 

The day began to dawn. Lizaveta extinguished her 
candle : a pale light illumined her room. She wiped her 
tear-stained eyes and raised them towards Hermann : he 
was sitting near the window, with his arms crossed and with 
a fierce frown upon his forehead. In this attitude he bore a 
striking resemblance to the portrait of Napoleon. This 
resemblance struck Lizaveta even. 

" How shall I get you out of the house ? " said she at 
last. " I^ thought of conducting you down the secret stair- 
case, but in th^t case it would be necessary to go through 
the Countess's bedroom, and I am afraid." 

"Tell me how to find this secret staircase — I will go 

Lizaveta arose, took from her drawer a key, handed it to 
Hermann and gave him the necessary instructions. Hermann 
pressed her cold, powerless hand, kissed her bowed head, 
and left the room. 
B He descended the winding staircase, and once more 
entered the Countess's bedroom. The dead old lady sat as 
if petrified; her face expressed profound tranquillity. 
Hermann stopped before her, and gazed long and earnestly 
at her, as if he wished to convince himself of the terrible 
reality; at last he entered the cabinet, felt behind the 
tapestry for the door, and then began to descend the dark 
staircase, filled with strange emotions. " Down this very 

286 poushkin's prose tales. 

staircase," thought he, " perhaps coming from the very same 
room, and at this very same hour sixty years ago, there may 
have glided, in an embroidered coat, with his hair dressed 
h Poiseau royal and pressing to his heart his three-cornered 
hat, some young gallant who has long been mouldering in 
the grave, but the heart of his aged mistress has only to-day 
ceased to beat. ..." 

At the bottom of the staircase Hermann found a door, 
which he opened with a key, and then traversed a corridor 
which conducted him into the street. 



THREE days after the fatal night, at nine o'clock in the 
morning, Hermann repaired to the Convent of , 

where the last honours were to be paid to the mortal remains 
of the old Countess. Although feeling no remorse, he could 
not altogether stifle the voice of conscience, which said to 
him : *' You are the murderer of the old woman ! " In spite 
of his entertaining very little religious belief, he was exceed- 
ingly superstitious; and believing that the dead Countess 
might exercise an evil influence on his life, he resolved to 
be present at her obsequies in order to implore her pardon. 

The church was full. It was with difficulty that Hermann 
made his way' through the crowd of people. The coffin was 
placed upon a rich catafalque beneath a velvet baldachin. 
The deceased Countess lay within it, with her hands crossed 
upon her breast, with a lace cap upon her head and dressed 
in a white satin robe. Around the catafalque stood the 
members of her household : the servants in black caftans^ 
with armorial ribbons upon their shoulders, and candles in 
their hands \ the relatives — children, grandchildren, and 
great-grandchildren — in deep mourning. 

Nobody wept ; tears would have been une affectation. The 
Countess was so old, that her death could have surprised 
nobody, and her relatives had long looked upon her as 
being out of the world. A famous preacher pronounced the 
funeral sermon. In simple and touching words he described 
the peaceful passing away of the righteous, who had passed 
long years in calm preparation for a Christian end. "The 


angel of death found her," said the orator, " engaged in 
pious meditation and waiting for the midnight bridegroom." 

The service concluded amidst profound silence. The 
relatives went forward first to take farewell of the corpse. 
Then followed the numerous guests, who had come to 
render the last homage to her who for so many years had 
been a participator in their frivolous amusements. After 
these followed the members of the Countess's household. 
The last of these was an old woman of the same age as the 
deceased. Two young women led her forward by the hand. 
She had not strength enough to bow down to the ground — 
she merely shed a few tears and kissed the cold hand of her 

Hermann now resolved to approach the coffin. He 
knelt down upon the cold stones and remained in that 
position for some minutes ; at last he arose, as pale 
as the deceased Countess herself ; he ascended the steps of 
the catafalque and bent over the corpse. ... At that 
moment it seemed to him that the dead woman darted 
a mocking look at him and winked with one eye. Hermann 
started back, took a false step and fell to the ground. 
Several persons hurried forward and raised him up. At 
the same moment Lizaveta Ivanovna was borne fainting into 
the porch of the church. This episode disturbed for some 
minutes the solemnity of the gloomy ceremony. Among 
the congregation arose a deep murmur, and a tall thin 
chamberlain, a near relative of the deceased, whispered 
in the ear of an Englishman who was standing near him, 
that the young officer was a natural son of the Countess, to 
which the Englishman coldly replied : " Oh ! " 

During the whole of that day, Hermann was strangely 
excited. Repairing to an out-of-the-way restaurant to dine, 
he drank a great deal of wine, contrary to his usual custom, 
in the hope of deadening his inward agitation. But the 


vs'ine only served to excite his imagination still more. On 
returning home, he threw himself upon his bed without 
undressing, and fell into a deep sleep. 

When he woke up it was already night, and the moon was 
shining into the room. He looked at his watch : it was a 
quarter to three. Sleep had left him ; he sat down upon his 
bed and thought of the funeral of the old Countess. 

At that moment somebody in the street looked in at his 
window, and immediately passed on again. Hermann paid 
no attention to this incident. A few moments afterwards he 
heard the door of his ante-room open. Hermann thought 
that it was his orderly, drunk as usual, returning from 
some nocturnal expedition, but presently he heard footsteps 
that were unknown to him : somebody was walking softly 
over the floor in slippers. The door opened, and a woman 
dressed in white, entered the room. Hermann mistook her 
for his old nurse, and wondered what could bring her there 
at that hour of, the night. But the white woman glided 

rapidly across-*' the room and stood before him and 

Hermann recognized the Countess ! 

" I have come to you against my wish," she said in 
a firm voice : " but I have been ordered to grant your 
request. Three, seven, ace, will win for you if played 
in succession, but only on these conditions : that you 
do not play more than one card in twenty-four hours, 
and that you never play again during the rest of your 
life. I forgive you my death, on condition that you 
marry my companion, Lizaveta Ivanovna." 

With these words she turned round very quietly, walked 
with a shuffling gait towards the door and disappeared. 
Hermann heard the street-door open and shut, and again he 
saw someone look in at him through the window. 

For a long time Hermann could not recover himself. 
He then rose up and entered the next room. His orderly 


was lying asleep upon the floor, and he had much difficulty 
in waking him. The orderly was drunk as usual, and no in- 
formation could be obtained from him. The street-dooi 
was locked. Hermann returned to his room, lit his candle, 
and wrote down all the details of his vision. 




TT^WO fixed ideas can no more exist together in the 
X moral world than two bodies can occupy one and the 
fame place in the physical world. '* Three, seven, ace " 
)Oon drove out of Hermann's mind the thought of the dead 
Ilountess. ** Three, seven, ace " were perpetually running 
hrough his head and continually being repeated by his lips, 
[f he saw a young girl, he would say : " How slender she is ! 
|uite like the three of hearts." If anybody asked : " What 
s the time ? " he would reply : " Five minutes to seven." 
ivery stout man that he saw reminded him of the ace. 
'Three, seven, ace" haunted him in his sleep, and assumed 
ill possible shapes. The threes bloomed before him in the 
brms of magnificent flowers, the sevens were represented by 
jothic portals, and the aces became transformed into 
;igantic spiders. One thought alone occupied his whole 
nind — to make a profitable use of the secret which he 
lad purchased so dearly. He thought of applying for a 
urlough so as to travel abroad. He wanted to go to 
^aris and tempt fortune in some of the public gambling-' 
lOuses that abounded there. Chance spared him all this 

There was in Moscow a society of rich gamesters, pre- 
ided over by the celebrated Chekalinsky, who had passed 
11 his life at the card-table and had amassed millions, 
ccepting bills of exchange for his winnings and paying 
is losses in ready money. His long experience secured for 
im the confidence of hjs companions, and his open house, 



292 POUSHKIN'S prose TALES. 

his famous cook, and his agreeable and fascinating manners 
gained for him the respect of the public. He came to St. 
Petersburg. The young men of the capital flocked to 
his rooms, forgetting balls for cards, and preferring the 
emotions of faro to the seductions of flirting. Naroumoff 
conducted Hermann to Chekalinsky's residence. 

They passed through a suite of magnificent rooms, filled 
with attentive domestics. The place was crowded. Gene- 
rals and Privy Counsellors were playing at whist ; young 
men were lolling carelessly upon the velvet-covered sofas, 
eating ices and smoking pipes. In the drawing-room, at the 
head of a long table, around which were assembled about a 
score of players, sat the master of the house keeping the bank. 
He was a man of about sixty years of age, of a very dignified 
appearance ; his head was covered with silvery- white hair ; 
his full, florid countenance expressed good-nature, and his 
eyes twinkled with a perpetual smile. Naroumofl" intro- 
duced Hermann to him. Chekalinsky shook him by the 
hand in a friendly manner, requested him not to stand on 
ceremony, and then went on dealing. 

The game occupied some time. On the table lay more 
than thirty cards. Chekalinsky paused after each throw, in 
order to give the players time to arrange their cards and 
note down their losses, listened politely to their requests, 
and more politely still, put straight the corners of cards that 
some player's hand had chanced to bend. At last the game 
was finished. Chekalinsky shuffled the cards and prepared 
to deal again. 

*'Will you allow me to take a card?" said Hermann, 
stretching out his hand from behind a stout gentleman who 
was punting. 

Chekalinsky smiled and bowed silently, as a sign of 
acquiescence. Naroumoff laughingly congratulated Her- 
mann on his abjuration of that abstention from cards which 


he had practised for so long a period, and wished him a 
lucky beginning. 

" Stake ! " said Hermann, writing some figures with chalk 
on the back of his card. 

*' How much?" asked the banker, contracting the muscles 
of his eyes ; " excuse me, I cannot see quite clearly." 

" Forty-seven thousand roubles," replied Hermann. 

At these words every head in the room turned suddenly 
round, and all eyes were fixed upon Hermann. 

" He has taken leave of his senses ! " thought Naroumof^. 

" Allow me to inform you," said Chekalinsky, with his 
eternal smile, " that you are playing very high ; nobody here 
has ever staked more than two hundred and seventy-five 
roubles at once." 

"Very well," replied Hermann; "but do you accept my 
card or not ? " 

Chekalinsky bowed in token of consent. 

" I only wish to observe," said he, " that although I have 
the greatest Qdhfidence in my friends, I can only play 
against ready money. For my own part, I am quite con- 
vinced that your word is sufficient, but for the sake of the 
order of the game, and to facilitate the reckoning up, I must 
ask you to put the money on your card." 

Hermann drew from his pocket a bank-note and handed 
it to Chekalinsky, who, after examining it in a cursory 
manner, placed it on Hermann's card. 

He began to deal. On the right a nine turned up, and 
on the left a three. 

" I have won ! " said Hermann, showing his card. 

A murmur of astonishment arose among the players. Che- 
kalinsky frowned, but the smile quickly returned to his face. 

" Do you wish me to settle with you ? " he said to 

" If you please," replied the latter. 

294 poushkin's prose tales. 

Chekalinsky drew from his pocket a number of bank- 
notes and paid at once. Hermann took up his money and 
left the table. Naroumoff could not recover from his 
astonishment. Hermann drank a glass of lemonade and 
returned home. 

The next evening he again repaired to Chekalinsky's. 
The host was dealing. Hermann walked up to the table ; 
the punters immediately made room for him. Chekalinsky 
greeted him with a gracious bow. 

Hermann waited for the next deal, took a card and placed 
upon it his forty-seven thousand roubles, together with his 
winnings of the previous evening. 

Chekalinsky began to deal. A knave turned up on the 
right, a seven on the left. 

Hermann showed his seven. 

There was a general exclamation. Chekalinsky was 
evidently ill at ease, but he counted out the ninety-four 
thousand roubles and handed them over to Hermann, who 
pocketed them in the coolest manner possible and im- 
mediately left the house. 

The next evening Hermann appeared again at the table. 
Everyone was expecting him. The generals and Privy 
Counsellors left their whist in order to watch such extra- 
ordinary play. The young officers quitted their sofas, and 
even the servants crowded into the room. All pressed 
round Hermann. The other players left off punting, im- 
patient to see how it would end. Hermann stood at the 
table and prepared to play alone against the pale, but still 
smiling Chekalinsky. Each opened a pack of cards. 
Chekalinsky shuffled. Hermann took a card and covered 
it with a pile of bank-notes. It was like a duel. Deep 
silence reigned around. 

Chekalinsky began to deal ; his hands trembled. On the 
right a queen turned up, and on the left an ace. 


" Ace has won ! " cried Hermann, showing his card. 

" Your queen has lost," said Chekalinsky, politely. 

Hermann started ; instead of an ace, there lay before him 
the queen of spades ! He could not believe his eyes, nor 
could he understand how he had made such a mistake. 

At that moment it seemed to him that the queen of 
spades smiled ironically and winked her eye at him. He 
was struck by her remarkable resemblance. . . . 

" The old Countess ! " he exclaimed, seized with terror. 

Chekalinsky gathered up his winnings. For some time, 
Hermann remained perfectly motionless. When at last 
he left the table, there was a general commotion in the 

" Splendidly punted ! " said the players. Chekalinsky 
shuffled the cards afresh, and the game went on as usual. 
* # # * * 

Hermann went oai 01 niS mind, and is now confined in 
room Number 17 of the Oboukhoff Hospital. He never 
answers any 'questions, but he constantly mutters with 
unusual rapidity : " Three, seven, ace ! Three, seven, 
queen ! " 

Lizaveta Ivanovna has married a very amiable young 
man, a son of the former steward of the old Countess. He 
is in the service of the State somewhere, and is in receipt of 
a good income. Lizaveta is also supporting a poor re- 

Tomsky has been promoted to the rank of captain, and 
has become the husband of the Princess Pauline. 





IN one of our most distant governments was situated the 
domain of Ivan Petrovitch Berestoff. In his youth he 
had served in the Guards, but having quitted the service at 
the beginning of the year 1797, he repaired to his estate, and 
since that time he had not stirred away from it. He had 
married a poor but noble lady, who died in child-bed at a 
time when he was absent from home on a visit to one of the 
outlying fields of his domain. He soon found consolation in 
domestic occupations. He built a house on a plan of his 
own, established a cloth manufactory, made good use of his 
revenues, and began to consider himself the most sensible 
man in the whole country roundabout, and in this he was 
not contradicted by those of his neighbours who came to 
visit him with their families and their dogs. On week-days 
he wore a plush jacket, but on Sundays and holidays he 
appeared in a surtout of cloth that had been manufactured 
on his own premises. He himself kept an account of all his 
expenses, and he never read anything except the " Senate 

In general he was liked, although he was considered 
proud. There was only one person who was not on good 
terms with him, and that was Gregory Ivanovitch Mouromsky, 
his nearest neighbour. This latter was a genuine Russian 
noble of the old stamp. After having squandered in Moscow 
the greater part of his fortune, and having become a widower 
about the same time, he retired to his last remaining estate, 

30O poushkin's prose tales. 

where he continued to indulge in habits of extravagance, but 
of a new kind. He laid out an English garden, on which 
he expended nearly the whole of his remaining revenue. 
His grooms were dressed like English jockeys, his daughter 
had an English governess, and his fields were cultivated 
after the English method. 

" But after the foreign manner Russian com does not bear 
fruit," and in spite of a considerable reduction in his 
expenses, the revenues of Gregory Ivanovitch did not 
increase. He found means, even in the country, of con- 
tracting new debts. Nevertheless he was not considered a 
fool, for he was the first landowner in his government who 
conceived the idea of placing his estate under the safeguard 
of a council of tutelage — a proceeding which at that time 
was considered exceedingly complicated and venturesome. 
Of all those who censured him, BerestofF showed himself 
the most severe. Hatred of all innovation was a distinguish- 
ing trait in his character. He could not bring himself to 
speak calmly of the Anglomania of his neighbour, and he 
constantly found occasion to criticise him. If he showed his 
possessions to a guest, in reply to the praises bestowed upon 
him for his economical arrangements, he would say with a 
sly smile : - 

" Ah yes, it is not the same with me as with my neighbour 
Gregory Ivanovitch. What need have we to ruin ourselves 
in the English style,, when we have enough to do to keep the 
wolf from the door- in the Russian style ? " 

These, and similar sarcastic remarks, thanks to the zeal of 
obliging neighbours, did not fail to reach the ears of Gregory 
Ivanovitch greatly embellished. The Anglomaniac bore 
criticism as impatiently as our journalists. He became 
furious, and called his traducer a bear and a countryman. 

Such were the relations between the two proprietors, 
when the son of Berestoff returned home to his father's 


estate. He had been educated at the University of , 

and was anxious to enter the military service, but to this his 
father would not give his consent. For the civil service the 
young man had not the slightest inclination, and as neither 
felt inclined to yield to the other, the young Alexei lived in 
the meantime like a nobleman, and allowed his moustache 
to grow at all events.^ 

Alexei was indeed a fine young fellow, and it would really 
have been a pity were his slender figure never to be set off 
to advantage by a military uniform, and were he to be com- 
pelled to spend his youth in bending over the papers of the 
chancery office, instead of bestriding a gallant steed. The 
neighbours, observing how he was always first in the chase, 
and always out of the beaten tracks, unanimously agreed 
that he would never make a useful official. The young ladies 
gazed after him, and sometimes cast stolen glances at him, 
but Alexei troubled himself very little about them, and they 
attributed this insensibility to some secret love affair. 
Indeed, there passed from hand to hand a copy of the 
address of one of his letters : '* To Akoulina Petrovna 
Kourotchkin, in Moscow, opposite the Alexeivsky Monastery, 
in the house of the coppersmith Saveleff, with the request 
that she will forward this letter to A. N. R." 

Those of my readers who have never lived in the country, 
cannot imagine how charming these provincial young ladies 
are ! Brought up in the pure air, under the shadow of the 
apple trees of their gardens, they derive their knowledge of 
the world and of life chiefly from books. Solitude, freedom, 
and reading develop very early within them sentiments and 
passions unknown to our town-bred beauties. For the 
young ladies of the country the sound of the post-bell is an 
event; a journey to the nearest town marks an epoch in 

^ It was formerly the custom in Russia for military men only to wear 
the moustache. 


their lives, and the visit of a guest leaves behind a long, and 
sometimes an eternal recollection. Of course everybody is 
at liberty to laugh at some of their peculiarities, but the 
jokes of a superficial observer cannot nullify their essential 
merits, the chief of which is that personality of character, 
that individualite^ without which, in Jean Paul's opinion, 
there can be no human greatness. In the capitals, women 
receive perhaps a better instruction, but intercourse with the 
world soon levels the character and makes their souls as 
uniform as their head-dresses. This is said neither by way 
of praise nor yet by way of censure, but " nota nostra 
manet^^ as one of the old commentators writes. 

It can easily be imagined what impression Alexei would 
produce among the circle of our young ladies. He was the 
first who appeared before them gloomy and disenchanted, 
the first who spoke to them of lost happiness and of his 
blighted youth ; in addition to which he wore a mourning 
ring engraved with a death's head. All this was something 
quite new in that distant government. The young ladies 
simply went out of their minds about him. 

But not one of them felt so much interest in him as the 
daughter of our Anglomaniac Liza, or Betsy, as Gregory 
Ivanovitch usually called her. As their parents did not 
visit each other, she had not yet seen Alexei, even when he 
had become the sole topic of conversation among all the 
young ladies of the neighbourhood. She was seventeen 
years of age. Dark eyes illuminated her swarthy and 
exceedingly pleasant countenance. She was an only child, 
and consequently she was perfectly spoiled. Her wanton- 
ness and continual pranks delighted her father and filled 
with despair the heart of Miss Jackson, her governess, an 
affected old maid of forty, who powdered her face and 
darkened her eyebrows, read through " Pamela " ^ twice a 
* A novel written by Samuel Richardson, and first published in 1740. 


year, for which she received two thousand roubles, and felt 
almost bored to death in this barbarous Russia of ours. 

Liza was waited upon by Nastia, who, although somewhat 
older, was quite as giddy as her mistress. Liza was very 
fond of her, revealed to her all her secrets, and planned 
pranks together with her ; in a word, Nastia was a far more 
important person in the village of Priloutchina, than the" 
trusted confidante in a French tragedy. 

" Will you allow me to go out to-day on a visit ? " said 
Nastia one morning, as she was dressing her mistress. 

" Very well ; but where are you going to ? " 

"To Tougilovo, to the Berestoffs. The wife of their cook 
is going to celebrate her name-day to-day, and she came 
over yesterday to invite us to dinner.^' 

"That's curious,^' said Liza : "the masters are at daggers 
drawn, but the servants fete each other/' 

" What have the masters to do with us ? " replied Nastia. 
"Besides, I belong to you, and not to your papa. You 
have not had atiiy quarrel with young Berestoff j let the old 
ones quarrel and fight, if it gives them any pleasure." 

"Try and see Alexei Berestoff, Nastia, and then tell me 
what he looks like and what sort of a person he is," 

Nastia promised to do so, and all day long Liza waited 
with impatience for her return. In the evening Nastia made 
her appearance. 

"Well, Lizaveta Gregorievna," said she, on entering the 
room, "I have seen young Berestoff, and I had ample 
opportunity for taking a good look at him, for we have been 
together all day." 

" How did that happen ? Tell me about it, tell me every- 
thing about it." 

"Very well. We set out, I, Anissia Egorovna, Nenila, 
Dounka. . . ." 
. " Yes, yes^ I know. And then f " 

304 poushkin's prose tales. 

"With your leave, I will tell you everything in detail. 
We arrived just in time for dinner. The room was full ol 
people. The Kolbinskys were there, as well as the Zakha- 
revskys, the Khloupinskys, the bailiff's wife and her daugh- 
ters. . . ." 

"Well, andBerestoff?" 

*'Wait a moment. We sat down to table; the bailiff's 
wife had the place of honour. I sat next to her . . . the 
daughters pouted and didn't like it, but I didn't care about 
them. . . ." 

"Good heavens, Nastia, how tiresome you are with your 
never-ending details ! " 

" How impatient you are ! Well, we rose from the table 
... we had been sitting down for three hours, and the 
dinner was excellent : pastry, blanc-manges, blue, red and 
striped. . . . Well, we left the table and went into the 
garden to have a game at catching one another, and it was 
then that the young lord made his appearance." 

" Well, and is it true that he is so very handsome ? " 
" Exceedingly handsome : tall, well-built, and with red 
cheeks. . . ." 

" Really ? And I was under the impression that he was 

fair. Well, and how did he seem to you ? Sad, thoughtful ? " 

" Nothing of the kind ! I have never in my life seen 

such a frolicsome person. He wanted to join in the game 

with us." 

" Join in the game with you ? Impossible 1 " 
"Not all impossible. And what else do you think he 
wanted to do ? To kiss us all round ! " 

"With your permission, Nastia, you are talking non- 

"With your permission, I am not talking nonsense. I 
had the greatest trouble in the world to get away from him. 
He spent the whole day along with us." 


" But they say that he is in love, and hasn't eyes for any- 

"I don't know anything about that, but I know that he 
looked at me a good deal, and so he did at Tania, the 
bailiff's daughter, and at Pasha ^ Kolbinsky also. But it 
cannot be said that he offended anybody — he is so very 

"That is extraordinary! And what do they say about 
him in the house?" 

'* They say that he is an excellent master — so kind, so 
cheerful. They have only one fault to find with him : he is 
too fond of running after the young girls. But for my part, 
I don't think that is a very great fault : he will grow steady 
with age." 

"How I should like to see him !" said Liza, with a sigh. 

" What is there to hinder you from doing so ? Tougilovo 
is not far from us — only about three versts. Go and take a 
walk in that direction, or a ride on horseback, and you will 
assuredly meejt him. He goes out early every morning with 
his gun." 

" No, no, that would not do. He might think that I was 
running after him. Besides, our fathers are not on good 
terms, so that I cannot make his acquaintance. ... Ah ! 
Nastia, do you know what I'll do ? I will dress myself up 
as a peasant girl ! " 

" Exactly ! Put on a coarse chemise and a sarafan, and 
then go boldly to Tougilovo; I will answer for it that 
Berestoff will not pass by without taking notice of you." 

" And I know how to imitate the style of speech of the 
peasants about here. Ah, Nastia 1 my dear Nastia ! what 
an excellent idea 1 " 

And Liza went to bed, firmly resolved on putting her plan 
into execution. 

^ Diminutive of Praskovia. 

3o6 poushkin's prose tales. 

The next morning she began to prepare for the accomplish- 
ment of her scheme. She sent to the bazaar and bought 
some coarse linen, some blue nankeen and some copper 
buttons, and with the help of Nastia she cut out for herself 
a chemise and sarafan. She then set all the female servants 
to work to do the necessary sewing, so that by the evening 
everything was ready. Liza tried on the new costume, and 
as she stood before the mirror, she confessed to herself that 
she had never looked so charming. Then she practised her 
part. As she walked she made a low bow, and then tossed 
her head several times, after the manner of a china cat, 
spoke in the peasants' dialect, smiled behind her sleeve, and 
did everything to Nastia's complete satisfaction. One thing 
only proved irksome to her : she tried to walk barefooted 
across the courtyard, but the turf pricked her tender feet, 
and she found the stones and gravel unbearable. Nastia 
immediately came to her assistance. She took the measure- 
ment of Liza's foot, ran to the fields to find Trophim the 
shepherd, and ordered him to make a pair of bast shoes of 
the same measurement. 

The next morning, almost before it was dawn, Liza was 
already awake. Everybody in the house was still asleep. 
Nastia went to the gate to wait for the shepherd. The 
sound of a horn was heard, and the village flock defiled past 
the manor-house. Trophim, on passing by Nastia, gave her 
a small pair of coloured bast shoes, and received from her a 
half-rouble in exchange. Liza quietly dressed herself in the 
peasant's costume, whispered her instructions to Nastia with 
reference to Miss Jackson, descended the back staircase 
and made her way through the garden into the field beyond. 

The eastern sky was all aglow, and the golden lines of 
clouds seemed to be awaiting the sun, like courtiers await 
their monarch. The bright sky, the freshness of the morn- 
ing, the dew, the light breeze, and the singing of the birds 


filled the heart of Liza with childish joy. The fear of 
meeting some acquaintance seemed to give her wings, for 
she flew rather than walked. But as she approached the 
wood which formed the boundary of her father's estate, she 
slackened her pace. Here she resolved to wait for Alexei. 
Her heart beat violently, she knew not why; but is not the 
fear which accompanies our youthful escapades that which 
constitutes their greatest charm? Liza advanced into the 
depth of the wood. The deep murmur of the waving 
branches seemed to welcome the young girl. Her gaiety 
vanished. Little by little she abandoned herself to sweet 
reveries. She thought — but who cai;i say exactly what a 
young lady of seventeen thinks of, alone in a wood, at six 
o'clock of a spring morning ? And so she walked musingly 
along the pathway, which was shaded on both sides by tall 
trees, when suddenly a magnificent hunting dog came bark- 
ing and bounding towards her. Liza became alarmed and 
cried out. But at the same moment a voice called out : 
'''• Tout beau ^ Sbogar^ id V . . . and a young hunter emerged 
from behind a clump of bushes. 

" Don't be afraid, my dear," said he to Liza : " my dog 
does not bite." 

Liza had already recovered from her alarm, and she im- 
jmediately took advantage of her opportunity. 
!' *'But, sir," said she, assuming a half-frightened, half- 
jibashful expression, '*I am so afraid; he looks so fierce — he 
might fly at me again." 

Alexei — for the reader has already recognized him — gazed 
fixedly at the young peasant-girl. 

" I will accompany you if you are afraid," said he to her : 
will you allow me to walk along with you ? " 

** Who is to hinder you ? " replied Liza. ** Wills are free, 
and the road is open to everybody. 

" Where do you come from ? " 



" From Priloutchina ; I am the daughter of Vassili the 
blacksmith, and I am going to gather mushrooms." (Liza 
carried a basket on her arm.) "And you, sir? From 
Tougilovo, I have no doubt." 

" Exactly so," replied Alexei : ** I am the young master's 
valet- de-cham bre. " 

Alexei wanted to put himself on an equality with her, but 
Liza looked at him and began to smile. 

" That is a fib," said she : " I am not such a fool as you 
may think. I see very well that you are tlie young master 

"Why do you think so?" 

" I think so for a great many reasons." 

" But " 

" As if it were not possible to distinguish the master from 
the servant ! You are not dressed like a servant, you do not 
speak like one, and you address your dog in a different way 
to us." 

Liza began to please Alexei more and more. As he was 
not accustomed to standing upon ceremony with peasant 
girls, he wanted to embrace her ; but Liza drew back ifrom 
him, and suddenly assumed such a cold and severe look, 
that Alexei, although much amused, did not venture to 
renew the attempt. 

" If you wish that we' should remain good friends," said 
she with dignity, " be good enough not to forget yourself." 

'* Who taught you such wisdom ? " asked Alexei, bursting 
into a laugh. " Can it be my friend Nastenka,^ the chamber- 
maid to your young mistress ? See by what paths enlighten- 
ment becomes diffused ! " 

Liza felt that she had stepped out of her role, and she 
immediately recovered herself. 

* Diminutive of Nastia. 


" Do you think," said she, ^* that I have never been to the 
manor-house? Don't alarm yourself; I have seen and heard 
a great many things. . . . But," continued she, " if I talk 
to you, I shall not gather my mushrooms. Go your way, 
sir, and I will go mine. Pray excuse me." 

And she was about to move off, but Alexei seized hold of 
her hand. 

" What is your name, my dear? " 

" Akoulina," replied Liza, endeavouring to disengage her 
fingers from his grasp : '* but let me go, sir ; it is time for 
me to return home." 

"Well, my friend Akoulina, I will certainly pay a visit to 
your father, Vassili the blacksmith." 

" What do you say?" replied Liza quickly: "for Heaven's 
sake, don't think of doing such a thing ! If it were known 
at home that I had been talking to a gentleman alone in the 
wood, I should fare very badly, — my father, Vassili the 
blacksmith, would beat me to death." 

"But I really must see you again." 

" Well, then, I will come here again some time to gather 


" Well, to-morrow, if you wish it." 

" My dear Akoulina, I would kiss you, but I dare not. . . . 
To-morrow, then, at the same time, isn't that so ? " 

"Yes, yes!" 

" And you will not deceive me ? " 

" I will not deceive you." 

" Swear it." 

" Well, then, I swear by Holy Friday that I will come." 

The young people separated. Liza emerged from the 
wood, crossed the field, stole into the garden and hastened 
to the place where Nastia awaited her. There she 
changed her costume, replying absently to the questions of 


her impatient confidante, and then she repaired to the 
parlour. The cloth was laid, the breakfast was ready, and 
Miss Jackson, already powdered and laced up, so that she 
looked like a wine-glass, was cutting thin slices of bread and 

Her father praised her for her early walk. 

" There is nothing so healthy," said he, " as getting up at 

Then he cited several instances of human longevity, 
which he had derived from the English journals, and 
observed that all persons who had lived to be upwards of a 
hundred, abstained from brandy and rose at daybreak, 
winter and summer. 

Liza did not listen to him. In her thoughts she was 
going over all the circumstances of the meeting of that 
morning, all the conversation of Akoulina with the young 
hunter, and her conscience began to torment her. In vain 
did she try to persuade herself that their conversation had 
not gone beyond the bounds of propriety, and that the frolic 
would be followed by no serious consequences — her con- 
science spoke louder than her reason. The promise given 
for the following day troubled her more than anything else, 
and she almost felt resolved not to keep her solemn oath. 
But then, might not Alexei, after waiting for her in vain, 
make his way to the village and search out the daughter of 
Vassili the blacksmith, the veritable Akoulina — a fat, pock- 
marked peasant girl — and so discover the prank she had 
played upon him ? This thought frightened Liza, and she 
resolved to repair again to the little wood the next morning 
in the same disguise as at first. 

On his side, Alexei was in an ecstasy of delight. All day 
long he thought of his new acquaintance ; and in his dreams 
at night the form of the dark-skinned beauty appeared 
before him. The morning had scarcely begun to dawn, when 


he was already dressed. Without giving himself time to 
load his gun, he set out for the fields with his faithful 
Sbogar, and hastened to the place of the promised 
rendezvous. A half hour of intolerable waiting passed by ; 
at last he caught a glimpse of a blue sarafan between the 
bushes, and he rushed forward to meet his charming 
Akoulina. She smiled at the ecstatic nature of his thanks, 
but Alexei immediately observed upon her face traces of 
sadness and uneasiness. He wished to know the cause. 
Liza confessed to him that her act seemed to her very 
frivolous, that she repented of it, that this time she did not 
wish to break her promised word, but that this meeting 
would be the last, and she therefore entreated him to break 
off an acquaintanceship which could not lead to any good. 

All this, of course, was expressed in the language of a 
peasant ; but such thoughts and sentiments, so unusual in a 
simple girl of the lower class, struck Alexei with astonish- 
ment. He employed all his eloquence to divert Akoulina 
from her purpose ; he assured her that his intentions were 
honourable, promised her that he would never give her cause 
to repent, that he would obey her in everything, and 
earnestly entreated her not to deprive him of the joy of 
seeing her alone, if only once a day, or even only twice a 
week. He spoke the language of true passion, and at that 
moment he was really in love. Liza listened to him in 

" Give me your word," said she at last, " that you will 
never come to the village in search of me, and that you will 
never seek a meeting with me except those that I shall 
appoint myself." 

Alexei swore by Holy Friday, but she stopped him with a 

" I do not want you to swear^" said she j " your mer? 
word is sufficient." 

312 poushkin's prose tales. 

After that they began to converse together in a friendly 
manner, strolling about the wood, until Liza said to him ; 

** It is time for me to return home." 

They separated, and when Alexei was left alone, he could 
not understand how, in two interviews, a simple peasant girl 
had succeeded in acquiring such influence over him. His 
relations with Akoulina had for him all the charm of 
novelty, and although the injunctions of the strange young 
girl appeared to him to be very severe, the thought of 
breaking his word never once entered his mind. The fact 
was that Alexei, in spite of his fatal ring, his mysterious 
correspondence and his gloomy disenchantment, was a good 
and impulsive young fellow, with a pure heart capable of 
enjoying the pleasures of innocence. 

Were I to listen to my own wishes only, I would here 
enter into a minute description of the interviews of the 
young people, of their growing passion for each other, their 
confidences, occupations and conversations; but I know 
that the greater part of my readers would not share my 
satisfaction. Such details are usually considered tedious 
and uninteresting, and therefore I will omit them, merely 
observing, that before two months had elapsed, Alexei was 
already hopelessly in love, and Liza equally so, though less 
demonstrative in revealing the fact. Both were happy 
in the present and troubled themselves little about the 

The thought of indissoluble ties frequently passed through 
their minds, but never had they spoken to each other about 
the matter. The reason was plain : Alexei, however much 
attached he might be to his lovely Akoulina, could not 
forget the distance that separated him from the poor peasant 
girl ; while Liza, knowing the hatred that existed between 
their parents, did not dare to hope for a mutual reconcilia- 
tion. Moreover, her self-love was stimulated in secret by 


tlie obscure and romantic hope of seeing at last the proprietor 
of Tougilovo at the feet of the blacksmith's daughter of 
Priloutchina. All at once an important event occurred 
which threatened to interrupt their mutual relations. 

One bright cold morning — such a morning as is very 
common during our Russian autumn — Ivan Petrovitch 
Berestoff went out for a ride on horseback, taking with him 
three pairs of hunting dogs, a gamekeeper and several 
stable-boys with clappers. At the same time, Gregory 
Ivanovitch Mouromsky, seduced by the beautiful weather, 
ordered his bob- tailed mare to be saddled, and started out 
to visit his domains cultivated in the English style. On 
approaching the wood, he perceived his neighbour, sitting 
proudly on his horse, in his cloak lined with fox-skin, wait- 
ing for a hare which his followers, with loud cries and the 
rattling of their clappers, had started out of a thicket. If 
Gregory Ivanovitch had foreseen this meeting, he would 
certainly have proceeded in another direction, but he came 
upon Berestoff so unexpectedly, that he suddenly found 
himself no farther than the distance of a pistol-shot away 
from him. There was no help for it : Mouromsky, like a 
civilized European, rode forward towards his adversary and 
politely saluted him. Berestoff returned the salute with the 
characteristic grace of a chained bear, who salutes the public 
in obedience to the order of his master. 

At that moment the hare darted out of the wood and 
started off across the field. Berestoff and the gamekeeper 
raised 4 loud shout, let the dogs loose, and then galloped 
off in- pursuit. Mouromsky's horse, not being accustomed 
to hunting, took fright and bolted. Mouromsky, who 
prided himself on being a good horseman, gave it full rein, 
and inwardly rejoiced at the incident which delivered him 
from a disagreeable companion. But the horse, reaching a 
ravine which it had not previously noticed, suddenly sprang 

314 poushkin's prose tales. 

to one side, and Mouromsky was thrown from the saddle. 
Striking the frozen ground with considerable force, he lay 
there cursing his bob-tailed mare, which, as if recovering 
from its fright, had suddenly come to a standstill as soon as 
it felt that it was without a rider. 

Ivan Petrovitch hastened towards him and inquired if he 
had injured himself. In the meantime the gamekeeper had 
secured the guilty horse, which he now led forward by the 
bridle. He helped Mouromsky into the saddle, and 
Berestoff invited him to his hoiise. Mouromsky could not 
refuse the invitation, for he felt indebted to him ; and so 
Berestoff returned home, covered with glory for having 
hunted down a hare and for bringing with him his adversary 
wounded and almost a prisoner of war. 

The two neighbours took breakfast together and con- 
versed with each other in a very friendly manner. Mou- 
romsky requested Berestoff to lend him a droshky^ for he 
was obliged to confess that, owing to his bruises, he was not 
in a condition to return home on horseback. Berestoff con- 
ducted him to the steps, and Mouromsky did not take leave 
of him until he had obtained a promise from him that he 
would come the next day in company with Alexei Ivanovitch, 
and dine in a friendly way at Priloutchina. In this way was 
a deeply-rooted enmity of long standing apparently brought 
to an end by the skittishness of a bob-tailed mare. 

Liza ran forward to meet Gregory Ivanovitch. 

"What does this mean, papa?" said she with astonish- 
ment. " Why are you walking lame ? Where is your horse ? 
Whose is this droshky ? " 

"You will never guess, my dear," replied Gregory 
Ivanovitch ; and then he related to her everything that had 

Liza could not believe her ears. Without giving her time 
tp collect herself, Gregory Ivanovitch then went on to in- 


form her that the two Berestoffs — father and son — would 
dine with them on the following day. 

" What do you say ? " she exclaimed, turning pale. " The 
Berestoffs, father and son, will dine with us to-morrow ! No, 
papa, you can do as you please, but I shall not show 

" Have you taken leave of your senses ? " replied her 
father. " Since when have you been so bashful ? Or do you 
cherish an hereditary hatred towards him like a heroine of 
romance? Enough, do not act the fool." 

"No, papa, not for anything in the world, not for any 
treasure would I appear before the Berestoffs." 

Gregory Ivanovitch shrugged his shoulders, and did not 
dispute with her any further, for he knew that by contradic- 
tion he would obtain nothing from her. He therefore went 
to rest himself after his remarkable ride. 

Lizaveta Gregorievna repaired to her room and sum- 
nnioned Nastia. They both conversed together for a long 
time about the impending visit. What would Alexei think 
if, in the well-bred young lady, he recognized his Akoulina ? 
What opinion would he have of her conduct, of her manners, 
of her good sense ? On the other hand, Liza wished very 
much to see what impression would be produced upon him 
by a meeting so unexpected. . . . Suddenly an idea flashed 
through her mind. She communicated it to Nastia ; both 
felt delighted with it, and they resolved to carry it into 

The next day at breakfast, Gregory Ivanovitch asked his 
daughter if she still intended to avoid the Berestoffs. 

" Papa," replied Liza, " I will receive them if you wish it, 
but on one condition, and that is, that however I may 
appear before them, or whatever I may do, you will not be 
angry with me, or show the least sign of astonishment qj 


"Some new freak!" said Gregory Ivanovitch, laughing. 
" Very well, very well, I agree ; do what you like, my dark- 
eyed romp." 

With these words he kissed her on the forehead, and 
Liza ran off to put her plan into execution. 

At two o'clock precisely, a Russian caliche, drawn by six 
horses, entered the courtyard and rounded the lawn. The 
elder Berestoff mounted the steps with the assistance of 
two lackeys in the Mouromsky livery. His son came after 
him on horseback, and both entered together into the 
dining-room, where the table was already laid. Mouromsky 
received his neighbours in the most gracious manner, pro- 
posed to them to inspect his garden and park before dinner, 
and conducted them along paths carefully kept and 
gravelled. The elder Berestoff inwardly deplored the time 
and labour wasted in such useless fancies, but he held his 
tongue out of politeness. His son shared neither the dis- 
approbation of the economical landowner, nor the en- 
thusiasm of the vain-glorious Anglomaniac, but waited with 
impatience for the appearance of his host's daughter, of 
whom he had heard a great deal ; and although his heart, 
as we know, was already engaged, youthful beauty always 
had a claim upon his imagination. 

Returning to the parlour, they all three sat down ; andj 
while the old men recalled their young days, and related^ 
anecdotes of their respective careers, Alexei considered inj 
his mind what role he should play in the presence of Liza.i 
He came to the conclusion that an air of cold indifference 
would be the most becoming under the circumstances, and. 
he prepared to act accordingly. The door opened; he] 
turned his head with such indifference, with such haughty] 
carelessness, that the heart of the most inveterate coquette 
would inevitably have shuddered. Unfortunately, instead 
of Liza^ it was old Miss Jackson, who, painted and be- 


decked, entered the room with downcast eyes and with a 
low bow, so that Alexei's dignified military salute was lost 
upon her. He had not succeeded in recovering from his 
confusion, when the door opened again, and this time it 
was Liza herself who entered. 

All rose ; her father was just beginning to introduce his 
guests, when suddenly he stopped short and bit his lips. . . . 
Liza, his dark-complexioned Liza, was painted white up to 
the ears, and was more bedizened than even Miss Jackson 
herself; false curls, much lighter than her own hair, covered 
her bead like the perruque of Louis the Fourteenth ; her 
sleeves ci IHmbecile stood out like the hooped skirts of 
Madame de Pompadour; her figure was pinched in like 
the letter X, and all her mother's jewels, which had not 
yet found their way to the pawnbroker's, shone upon her 
fingers, her neck and in her ears. 

Alexei could not possibly recognize his Akoulina in the 
grotesque and brilliant young lady. His father kissed her 
hand, and he f'ollowed his example, though much against 
his will ; when he touched her little white fingers, it seemed 
to him that they trembled. In the meantime he succeeded 
in catching a glimpse of her little foot, intentionally ad- 
vanced and set off to advantage by the- most coquettish shoe 
imaginable. This reconciled him somewhat to the rest 
of her toilette. As for the paint and powder, it must 
be confessed that, in the simplicity of his heart, he had not 
noticed them at the first glance, and afterwards had no sus 
picion of them. Gregory Ivanovitch remembered his 
promise, and endeavoured not to show any astonishment ; 
but his daughter's freak seemed to him so amusing, that he 
could scarcely contain himself. But the person who felt no 
inclination to laugh was the affected English governess. 
She had a shrewd suspicion that the paint and powder had 
been extracted from her chest of drawers, and the deep 


flush of anger was distinctly visible beneath the artificial 
whiteness of her face. She darted angry glances at the 
young madcap, who, reserving her explanations for another 
time, pretended that she did not notice them. 

They sat down to table. Alexei continued to play his 
role of assumed indifference and absence of mind. Liza 
put on an air of affectation, spoke through her teeth, 
and only in French. Her father kept constantly looking at 
her, not understanding her aim, but finding it all exceedingly 
amusing. The English governess fumed with rage and 
said not a word. Ivan Petrovitch alone seemed at 
home : he ate like two, drank heavily, laughed at his 
own jokes, and grew more talkative, and hilarious at every 

At last they all rose up from the table; the guests 
took their departure, and Gregory Ivanovitch gave free 
vent to his laughter and to his interrogations. ^ 

" What put the idea into your head of acting the fool like 
that with them ? " he said to Liza. " But do you know 
what? The paint suits you admirably. I do not wish to 
fathom the mysteries of a lady's toilette, but if I were 
in your place, I would very soon begin to paint ; not 
too much, of course, but just a little." 

Liza was enchanted with the success of her stratagem, 
She embraced her father, promised him that she would co 
sider his advice, and then hastened to conciliate the indig- 
nant Miss Jackson, who, with great reluctance consented t 
open the door and listen to her explanations. Liza 
ashamed to appear before strangers with her dark com-l 

plexion ; she had not dared to ask she felt sure that 

dear, good Miss Jackson would pardon her, etc., etc. Misi 
Jackson, feeling convinced that Liza had not wished to makej 
her a laughing-stock by imitating her, calmed down, kissed' 
her, and as 4 token of recpociUation, raacje her «i present q: 



a small pot of English paint, which Liza accepted with every 
appearance of sincere gratitude. 

The reader will readily imagine that Liza lost no time in 
repairing to the rendezvous in the little wood the n^xt 

" You were at our master's yesterday," she said at once to 
Alexei : *' what do you think of our young mistress ? " 

Alexei replied that he had not observed her. 

" That's a pity ! " replied Liza. 

" Why so ? " asked Alexei. 

*' Because I wanted to ask you if it is true what they 
say " 

"What do they say?" 

*' Is it true, as they say, that I am very much like her?" 

" What nonsense ! She is a perfect monstrosity com- 
pared with you." 

^^Oh, sir, it is very wrong of you to speak like that. Our 
young mistress is so fair and so stylish 1 How could I be 
compared with her ! " 

Alexei vowed to her that she was more beautiful than all 
the fair young ladies in creation, and in order to pacify her 
completely, he began to describe her mistress in such 
comical terms, that Liza laughed heartily. 

" But," said she with a sigh, " even though our young mis- 
tress may be ridiculous, I am but a poor ignorant thing in 
comparison with her." 

" Oh ! " said Alexei ; " is that anything to break your heart 
about ? If you wish it, I will soon teach you to read and 

'* Yes, indeed," said Liza, *' why should I not try ? " 

'* Very well, my dear ; we will commence at once." 

They sat down. Alexei drew from his pocket a pencil 
and note-book, and Akoulina learnt the alphabet with 
astonishing rapidity. Alexei could not sufficiently admire 


her intelligence. The following morning she wished to try 
to write. At first the pencil refused to obey her, but after a 
few minutes she was able to trace the letters with tolerable 

" It is really wonderful ! " said Alexei. ** Our method 
certainly produces quicker results than the Lancaster 
system." ^ 

And indeed, at the third lesson Akoulina began to spell 
through " Nathalie the Boyard's Daughter," interrupting 
her reading by observations which really filled Alexei with 
astonishment, and she filled a whole sheet of paper with 
aphorisms drawn from the same story. 

A week went by, and a correspondence was established 
between them. Their letter-box was the hollow of an old 
oak-tree, and Nastia acted as their messenger. Thither 
Alexei carried his letters written in a bold round hand, and 
there he found on plain blue paper the delicately-traced 
strokes of his beloved. Akoulina perceptibly began to 
acquire an elegant style of expression, and her mental 
faculties commenced to develop themselves with astonishing 

Meanwhile, the recently-formed acquaintance between 
Ivan Petrovitch Berestoff and Gregory Ivanovitch Mourom- 
sky soon became transformed into a sincere friendship, 
under the following circumstances. Mouromsky frequently 
reflected that, on the death of Ivan Petrovitch, all his pos- 
sessions would pass into the hands of Alexei Ivanovitch, in 
which case the latter would be one of the wealthiest landed 
proprietors in the government, and there would be nothing 
to hinder him from marrying Liza. The elder Berestoff, on 
his side, although recognizing in his neighbour a certain 
extravagance (or, as he termed it, English folly), was per- 

^ An allusion to the system of education introduced into England by 
Joseph Lancaster at the commencement of the present century. 


fectly ready to admit that he possessed many excellent 
qualities, as for example, his rare tact. Gregory Ivanovitch 
was closely related to Count Pronsky, a man of distinction 
and of great influence. The Count could be of great 
service to Alexei, and Mouromsky (so thought Ivan Petro- 
vitch) would doubtless rejoice to see his daughter marry so 
advantageously. By dint of constantly dwelling upon this 
idea, the two old men came at last to communicate their 
thoughts to one another. They embraced each other, both 
promised to do their best to arrange the matter, and they 
immediately set to work, each on his own side. Mouromsky 
foresaw that he would have some difficulty in persuading his 
Betsy to become more intimately acquainted with Alexei, 
whom she had not seen since the memorable dinner. It 
seemed to him that they had not been particularly well 
pleased with each other ; at least Alexei had not paid any 
further visits to Priloutchina, and Liza had retired to her 
room every tira^ that Ivan Petrovitch had honoured them 
with a visit. '^ 

" But," thought Gregory Ivanovitch, " if Alexei came to 
see us every day, Betsy could not help falling in love with 
him. That is the natural order of things. Time will settle 

Ivan Petrovitch was no less uneasy about the success of 
his designs. That same evening he summoned his son into 
his cabinet, lit his pipe, and, after a long pause, said : 

"Well, Alesha,^ what do you think about doing? You 
have not said anything for a long time about the military 
service. Or has the Hussar uniform lost its charm for 

"No, father," replied Alexei respectfully; "but I see 
that you do not like the idea of my entering the Hussars, 
and it is my duty to obey you." 

^ Diminutive of Alexei (Alexis). 


" Good," replied Ivan Petrovitch ; " I see that you are an 
obedient son; that is very consoling to me. ... On my 
side, I do not wish to compel you j I do not want to force 
you to enter ... at once . . . into the civil service, but, 
in the meanwhile, I intend you to get married." 

*' To whom, father ? " asked Alexei in astonishment. 

"To Lizaveta Gregorievna Mouromsky," replied Ivan 
Petrovitch. "She is a charming bride, is she not?" 

" Father, I have not thought of marriage yet." 

" You have not thought of it, and therefore I have thought 
of it for you." 

" As you please, but I do not care for Liza Mouromsky 
in the least." 

" You will get to like her afterwards. Love comes with 

" I do not feel capable of making her happy." 

"Do not distress yourself about making her happy. 
What ? Is this how you respect your father's wish ? Very 

" As you please. I do not wish to marry, and I will not 

" You will marry, or I will curse you ; and as for my 
possessions, as true as God is holy, I will sell them and 
squander the money, and not leave you a farthing. I will 
give you three days to think about the matter ; and in the 
meantime, don't show yourself in my sight." 

Alexei knew that when his father once took an idea into 
his head, a nail even would not drive it out, as Taras 
Skotinin^ says in the comedy. But Alexei took after his 
father, and was just as head-strong as he was. He went to 
his room and began to reflect upon the limits of paternal 
authority; Then his thoughts reverted to Lizaveta Gregori- 

* A character in *• Nedorosl," a comedy by Denis Von Vizin. 



evna, to his father's solemn vow to make him a beggar, and 
last of all to Akoulina. For the first time he saw clearly 
that he was passionately in love with her; the romantic 
idea of marrying a peasant girl and of living by the labour 
of their hands came into his'head, and the more he thought 
of such a decisive step, the more reasonable did it seem to 
him. For some time the interviews in the wood had ceased 
on account of the rainy weather. He wrote to Akoulina 
a letter in his most legible handwriting, informing her of the 
misfortune that threatened them, and offering her his hand. 
He took the letter at once to the post-office in the wood, 
and then went to bed, well satisfied with himself. 

The next day Alexei, still firm in his resolution, rode over 
early in the morning to visit Mouromsky, in order to explain 
matters frankly to him. He hoped to excite his generosity 
and win him over to his side. 

"Is Gregory Ivanovitch at home?" asked he, stopping 
his horse in front of the steps of the Priloutchina mansion. 

"No," repli^ the servant; '^Gregory Ivanovitch rode 
out early this morning, and has not yet returned." 

" How annoying ! " thought Alexei. ..." Is Lizaveta 
Gregorievna at home, then ? " he asked. 

"Yes, sir." 

Alexei sprang from his horse, gave the reins to the lackey, 
and entered without being announced. 

" Everything is now going to be decided," thought he, 
directing his steps towards the parlour: "I will explain 
everything to Lizaveta herself." 

He entered . . . and then stood still as if petrified ! 
Liza . . . no . . . Akoulina, dear, dark-haired Akoulina, 
no longer in a sarafan^ but in a white morning robe, was 
sitting in front of the window, reading his letter ; she was so 
occupied that she had not heard him enter. 

Alexei could not restrain an exclamation of joy. Liza 


324 poushkin's prose tales. 

started, raised her head, uttered a cry, and wished to fly 
from the room. But he threw himself before her and held 
her back. 

" Akoulina ! Akoulina ! " 

Liza endeavoured to liberate herself from his grasp. 

^^ Mais laissez-moi done, Monsieur/ . . . Mais ttes-vous 
fouV she said, twisting herself round. 

** Akoulina! my dear Akoulina!" he repeated, kissing 
her hand. 

Miss Jackson, a witness of this scene, knew not what to 
think of it. At that moment the door opened, and Gregory 
Ivanovitch entered the room. 

" Ah ! ah ! " said Mouromsky ; " but it seems that you 
have already arranged matters between you." 

The reader will spare me the unnecessary obligation of 
describing the denouement 





WE were stationed in the little town of N . The 
life of an officer in the army is well known. In the 
morning, drill and the riding-school ; dinner with the Colonel 
or at a Jewish restaurant ; in the evening, punch and cards. 

In N there was not one open house, not a single 

marriageable girl. We used to meet in each other's 
rooms, where, except our uniforms, we never saw any- 

One civilian only was admitted into our society. He was 
about thirty-five years of age, and therefore we looked upon 
him as an old fellow. His experience gave him great 
advantage over us, and his habitual taciturnity, stern dis- 
position and caustic tongue produced a deep impression 
upon our young minds. Some mystery surrounded his 
existence; he had the appearance of a Russian, although 
his name was a foreign one. He had formerly served in 
the Hussars, and with distinction. Nobody knew the cause 
that had induced him to retire from the service and settle in 
a wretched little village, where he lived poorly and, at the 
same time, extravagantly. He always went on foot, and 
constantly wore a shabby black overcoat, but the officers of 
our regiment were ever welcome at his table. His dinners, 
it is true, never consisted of more than two or three dishes, 
prepared by a retired soldier, but the champagne flowed like 

328 poushkin's prose tales. 

water. Nobody knew what his circumstances were, or what 
his income was, and nobody dared to question him about 
them. He had a collection of books, consisting chiefly of 
works on military matters and a few novels. He willingly 
lent them to us to read, and never asked for them back ; on 
the other hand, he never returned to the owner the books 
that were lent to him. His principal amusement was shoot- 
ing with a pistol. The walls of his room were riddled with 
bullets, and were as full of holes as a honey-comb. A rich 
collection of pistols was the only luxury in the humble 
cottage where he lived. The skill which he had acquired 
with his favourite weapon was simply incredible ; and if he 
had offered to shoot a pear off somebody's forage-cap, not a 
man in our regiment would have hesitated to place the 
object upon his head. 

Our conversation often turned upon duels. Silvio — so 1 
will call him — never joined in it. When asked if he had 
ever fought, he drily replied that he had ; but he entered 
into no particulars, and it was evident that such questions 
were not to his liking. We came to the conclusion that he 
had upon his conscience the memory of some unhappy 
victim of his terrible skill. Moreover, it never entered into 
the head of any of us to suspect him of anything like 
cowardice. There are persons whose mere look is sufficient 
to repel such a suspicion. But an unexpected incident 
occurred which astounded us all. 

One day, about ten of our officers dined with Silvio. 
They drank as usual, that is to say, a great deal. After 
dinner we asked our host to hold the bank for a game at 
faro. For a long time he refused, for he hardly ever played, 
but at last he ordered cards to be brought, placed half a 
hundred ducats upon the table, and sat down to deal. We 
took our places round him, and the play began. It was 
Silvio's custom to preserve a complete silence when playing. 

THE SHOT. 329 

He never disputed, and never entered into explanations. If 
the punter made a mistake in calculating, he immediately 
paid him the difference or noted down the surplus. We 
were acquainted with this habit of his, and we always allowed 
him to have his own way ; but among us on this occasion 
was an officer who had only recently been transferred to our 
regiment. During the course of the game, this officer 
absently scored one point too many. Silvio took the 
chalk and noted down the correct account according to 
his usual custom. The officer, thinking that he had inade a 
mistake, began to enter into explanations. Silvio continued 
dealing in silence. The officer, losing patience, took the 
brush and rubbed out what he considered was wrong. Silvio 
took the chalk and corrected the score again. The officer, 
heated with wine, play, and the laughter of his comrades, 
considered himself grossly insulted, and in his rage he 
seized a brass candlestick from the table, and hurled it at 
Silvio, who barely succeeded in avoiding the missile. We 
were filled With consternation. Silvio rose, white with rage, 
and with gleaming eyes, said : 

" My dear sir, have the goodness to withdraw, and thank 
God that this has happened in my house." 

None of us entertained the slightest doubt as to what the 
result would be, and we already looked upon our new com- 
rade as a dead man. The officer withdrew, saying that he 
was ready to -answer for his offence in whatever way the 
banker liked. The play went on for a few minutes longer, 
but feeling that our host was no longer interested in the 
game, we withdrew one after the other, and repaired to our 
respective quarters, after having exchanged a few words 
upon the probability of there soon being a vacancy in the 

The next day, at the riding-school, we were already asking 
each other if the poor lieutenant was still alive, when he him- 

330 poushkin's prose tales. 

self appeared among us. We put the same question to him, 
and he replied that he had not yet heard from Silvio. This 
astonished us. We went to Silvio's house and found him in 
the courtyard shooting bullet after bullet into an ace pasted 
upon the gate. He received us as usual, but did not utter 
a word about the event of the previous evening. Three 
days passed, and the lieutenant was still alive. We asked 
each other in astonishment : " Can it be possible that Silvio 
is not going to fight ? " 

Silvio did not fight. He was satisfied with a very lame 
explanation, and became reconciled to his assailant. 

This lowered him very much in the opinion of all our 
young fellows. Want of courage is the last thing to be par- 
doned by young men, wjio usually look upon bravery as the 
chief of all human virtues, and the excuse for every possible 
fault. But, by degrees, everything became forgotten, and 
Silvio regained his former influence. 

I alone could not approach him on the old footing. Being 
endowed by nature with a romantic imagination, I had be- 
come attached more than all the others to the man whose 
life was an enigma, and who seemed to me tjie hero of some 
mysterious drama. He was fond of me ; at least, with me 
alone did he drop his customary sarcastic tone, and converse 
on different subjects in a simple and unusually agreeable 
manner. But after this unlucky evening, the thought that 
his honour had been tarnished, and that the stain had been 
allowed to remain upon it in accordance with his own wish, 
was ever present in my mind, and prevented me treating 
him as before. I was ashamed to look at him. Silvio was 
too intelligent and experienced not to observe this and 
guess the cause of it. This seemed to vex him ; at least I 
observed once or twice a desire on his part to enter into an 
explanation with me, but I avoided such opportunities, and 
Silvio gave up the attempt. From that time forward I saw 

THE SHOT. 331 

him only in the presence of my comrades, and our con- 
fidential conversations came to an end. 

The inhabitants of the capital, with minds occupied by so 
many matters of business and pleasure, have no idea of the 
many sensations so familiar to the inhabitants of villages and 
small towns, as, for instance, the awaiting the arrival of the 
post. On Tuesdays and Fridays our regimental bureau 
used to be filled with officers : some expecting money, some 
letters, and others newspapers. The packets were usually 
opened on the spot, items of news were communicated from 
one to another, and the bureau used to present a very ani- 
mated picture. Silvio used to have his letters addressed 
to our regiment, and he was generally there to receive 

One day he received a letter, the seal of which he broke 
with a look of great impatience. As he read the contents, 
his eyes sparkled. The officers, each occupied with his own 
letters, did not observe anything. 

" Gentlemen," said Silvio, " circumstances demand my 
immediate departure; I leave to-night. I hope that you 
will not refuse to dine with me for the last time. I shall 
expect you, too," he added, turning towards me. " I shall 
expect you without fail." 

With these words he hastily departed, and we, after 
agreeing to meet at Silvio's, dispersed to our various 

I arrived at Silvio's house at the appointed time, and 
found nearly the whole regiment there. All his things were al- 
ready packed ; nothing remained but the bare, bullet-riddled 
walls. We sat down to table. Our host was in an excellent 
humour, and his gaiety was quickly communicated to the 
rest. Corks popped every moment, glasses foamed inces- 
santly, and, with the utmost warmth, we wished our depart- 
ing friend a pleasant journey and every happiness. When we 

332 poushkin's prose tales. 

rose from the table it was already late in the evening 
After having wished everybody good-bye, Silvio took me by 
the hand and detained me just at the moment when I was 
preparing to depart. 

" I want to speak to you," he said in a low voice. 
\ I stopped behind. 

The guests had departed, and we two were left alone. 
Sitting down opposite each other, we silently lit our pipes. 
Silvio seemed greatly troubled ; not a trace remained of his 
former convulsive gaiety. The intense pallor of his face, his 
sparkling eyes, and the thick smoke issuing from his mouth, 
gave him a truly diabolical appearance. Several minutes 
elapsed, and then Silvio broke the silence. 

" Perhaps we shall never see each other again," said he ; 
** before we part, I should like to have an explanation with 
you. You may have observed that I care very little for the 
opinion of other people, but I like you, and I feel that 
it would be painful to me to leave you with a wrong im- 
pression upon your mind." 

He paused, and began to knock the ashes out of his pipe. 
I sat gazing silently at the ground. 

" You thought it strange," he continued, " that I did not 

demand satisfaction from that drunken idiot R . You 

will admit, however, that having the choice of weapons, his 
life was in my hands, while my own was in no great danger. 
I could ascribe my forbearance to generosity alone, but 
I will not tell a lie. If I could have chastised R with- 
out the least risk to my own life, I should never have 
pardoned him." 

I looked at Silvio with astonishment. Such a confession 
completely astounded me. Silvio continued : 

*' Exactly so : I have no right to expose myself to death. 
Six years ago I received a slap in the face, and my enemy 
still lives." 

THE SHOT. 333 

My curiosity was greatly excited. 

*' Did you not fight with him ? " I asked. " Circumstances 
probably separated you." 

" I did fight with him," replied Silvio : " and here is 
a souvenir of our duel." 

Silvio rose and took from a cardboard box a red cap with 
a gold tassel and embroidery (what the French call a bonnet 

de police) ; he put in on a bullet had passed through it 

ubout an inch above the forehead. 

**You know," continued Silvio, "that I served in one of 
the Hussar regiments. My character is well-known to you : 
I am accustomed to taking the lead. From my youth this 
has been my passion. In our time dissoluteness was the 
fashion, and I was the most outrageous man in the army. 
We used to boast of our drunkenness : I beat in a drinking 
beut the famous Bourtsoff,^ of whom Denis Davidoff^ has 
sung. Duels in our regiment were constantly talcing place, 
and in all of them I was either second or principal. My 
comrades adof ed me, while the regimental commanders, who 
were constantly being changed, looked upon me as a 
necessary evil. 

" I was calmly enjoying my reputation, when a young man 
belonging to a wealthy and distinguished family — I will not 
mention his name — ^joined our regiment. Never in my 
life have I met with such a fortunate fellow ! Imagine to 
yourself youth, wit, beauty, unbounded gaiety, the most 
reckless bravery, a famous name, untold wealth — imagine all 
these, and you can form some idea of the effect that he would 
be sure to produce among us. My supremacy was shaken. 
Dazzled by my reputation, he began to seek my friendship, 
but I received him coldly, and without the least regret he 
held aloof from me. I took a hatred to him. His success 

^ A cavalry officer, notorious for his drunken escapades. 

^ A military poet who flourished in the reign of Alexander L 

334 poushkin's prose tales. 

in the regiment and in the society of ladies brought me to 
the verge of despair. I began to seek a quarrel with him ; 
to my epigrams he replied with epigrams which always 
seemed to me more spontaneous and more cutting than 
mine, and which were decidedly more amusing, for he 
joked while I fumed. At last, at a ball given by a Polish 
landed proprietor, seeing him the object of the attention of 
all the ladies, and especially of the mistress of the house, 
with whom I was upon very good terms, I whispered some 
grossly insulting remark in his ear. He flamed up and gave 
me a slap in the face. We grasped our swords ; the ladies 
fainted ; we were separated ; and that same night we set out 
to fight. 

"The dawn was just breaking. I was standing at the 
appointed place with my three seconds. With inexplicable 
impatience I awaited my opponent. The spring sun rose, 
and it was already growing hot. I saw him coming in the 
distance. He was walking on foot, accompanied by one 
second. We advanced to meet him. He approached, 
holding his cap filled with black cherries. The seconds 
measured twelve paces for us. I had to fire first, but 
my agitation was so great, that I could not depend upon the 
steadiness of my hand ; and in order to give myself time to 
become calm, I ceded to him the first shot. My adversary 
would not agree to this. It was decided that we should cast 
lots. The first number fell to him, the constant favourite of 
fortune. He took aim, and his bullet went through my cap. 
It was now my turn. His life at last was in my hands ; I 
looked at him eagerly, endeavouring to detect if only the faint- 
est shadow of uneasiness. But he stood in front of my pistol, 
picking out the ripest cherries from his cap and spitting out 
the stones, which flew almost as far as my feet. His 
indifference annoyed me beyond measure. 'What is the 
use,' thought I, ' of deprivmg him of life, when he attaches 

THE SHOT. 335 

no value whatever to it?' A malicious thought flashed 
through my mind. I lowered my pistol. 

" * You don't seem to be ready for death just at present,' 
I said to him : * you wish to have your breakfast ; I do not 
wish to hinder you.' 

" ' You are not hindermg me in the least,' replied he. 
* Have the goodness to fire, or just as you please — the shot 
remains yours ; I shall always be ready at your service.' 

" I turned to the seconds, informing them that I had no 
intention of firing that day, and with that the duel came to 
an end. 

" I resigned my commission and retired to this little place. 
Since then, not a day has passed that I have not thought of 
revenge. And now my hour has arrived." 

Silvio took from his pocket the letter that he had received 
that morning, and gave it to me to read. Someone (it 
seemed to be his business agent) wrote to him from Moscow, 
that a certain person was going to be married to a young and 
beautiful girl. .- 

" You can guess," said Silvio, " who the certain person is 
I am going to Moscow. We shall see if he will look death 
in the face with as much indifference now, when he is 
on the eve of being married, as he did once with his 
cherries ! " 

With these words, Silvio rose, threw his cap upon the floor, 
and began pacing up and down the room like a tiger in his 
cage. I had listened to him in silence j strange conflicting 
feeUngs agitated me. 

The servant entered and announced that the horses were 
ready. Silvio grasped my hand tightly, and we embraced 
each other. He seated himself in his telega, in which lay 
two trunks, one containing his pistols, the other his effects. 
We said good-bye once more, and the horses galloped oft. 



SEVERAL years passed, and family circumstances com- 
pelled me to settle in the poor little village of M . 

Occupied with agricultural pursuits, I ceased not to sigh in 
secret for my former noisy and careless life. The most 
difficult thing of all was having to accustom myself to pass- 
ing the spring and winter evenings in perfect solitude. Until 
the hour for dinner I managed to pass away the time some- 
how or other, talking with the bailiff, riding about to inspect 
the work, or going round to look at the new buildings ; but 
as soon as it began to get dark, I positively did not know 
what to do with myself. The few books that I had found 
in the cupboards and store-rooms, I already knew by heart. 
All the stories that my housekeeper Kirilovna could 
remember, I had heard over and over again. The songs of 
the peasant women made me feel depressed. I tried drink- 
ing spirits, but it made my head ache ; and moreover, I con- 
fess I was afraid of becoming a drunkard from mere chagrin, 
that is to say, the saddest kind of drunkard, of which I had 
seen many examples in our district. 

I had no near neighbours, except two or three topers, 
whose conversation consisted for the mosit part of hiccups 
and sighs. Solitude was preferable to their society. At last 
I decided to go to bed as early as possible, and to dine as 
late as possible ; in this way I shortened the evening and 
lengthened out the day, and I found that the plan answered 
very well. 

Four versts from my house was a rich estate belonging to 

THE SHOT. 337 

the Countess B ; but nobody lived there except the 

steward. The Countess had only visited her estate once, in 
the first year of her married life, and then she had remained 
there no longer than a month. But in the second spring of 
my hermitical life, a report was circulated that the Countess, 
with her husband, was coming to spend the summer on her 
estate. The report turned out to be true, for they arrived 
at the beginning of June. 

The arrival of a rich neighbour is an important event in 
the lives of country people. The landed proprietors and 
the people of their household talk about it for two months 
beforehand, and for three years afterwards. As for me, I 
must confess that the news of the arrival of a young and 
beautiful neighbour affected me strongly. I burned with 
impatience to see her, and the first Sunday after her arrival 

I set out after dinner for the village of A , to pay my 

respects to the Countess and her husband, as their nearest 
neighbour and most humble servant. 

A lackey conducted me into the Count's study, and then 
went to announce me. The spacious apartment was 
furnished with every ' possible luxury. Around the walls 
were cases filled with books and surmounted by bronze 
busts ; over the marble mantelpiece was a large mirror ; on 
the floor was a green cloth covered with carpets. Unaccus- 
tomed to luxury in my own poor corner, and not having seen 
the wealth of other people for a long time, I awaited the 
appearance of the Count with some little trepidation, as a 
suppliant from the provinces awaits the arrival of the 
minister. The door opened, and a handsome-looking man, 
of about thirty-two years of age, entered the room. The 
Count approached me with a frank and friendly air: I 
endeavoured to be self-possessed and began to introduce 
myself, but he anticipated me. We sat down. His conver- 
sation, which was easy and agreeable, soon dissipated my 


awkward bashfulness; and I was already beginning to 
recover my usual composure, when the Countess suddenly 
entered, and I became more confused than ever. She was 
indeed beautiful. The Count presented me. I wished to 
appear at ease, but the more I tried to assume an air of un- 
constnaint, the more awkward I felt. They, in order to give 
me time to recover myself and to become accustomed to my 
new acquaintances, began to talk to each other, treating me 
as a good neighbour, and without ceremony. Meanwhile, I 
walked about the room, examining the books and pictures. 
I am no judge of pictures, but one of them attracted my 
attention. It represented some view in Switzerland, but it 
was not the painting that struck me, but the circumstance 
that the canvas was shot through by two bullets, one planted 
just above the other. 

" A good shot, that ! " said I, turning to the Count. 

" Yes," replied he, " a very remarkable shot. ... Do 
you shoot well ? " he continued. 

"Tolerably," replied I, rejoicing that the conversation 
had turned at last upon a subject that was familiar to me. 
" At thirty paces I can manage to hit a card without fail, — 
I mean, of course, with a pistol that I am used to." 

" Really ? " said the Countess, with a look of the greatest 
interest. " And you, my dear, could you hit a card at thirty 
paces ? " 

"Some day," replied the Count, "we will try. In my 
time I did not shoot badly, but it is now four years since I 
touched a pistol." 

" Oh ! " I observed, " in that case, I don't mind laying a 
wager that Your Excellency will not hit the card at twenty 
paces : the pistol demands practice every day. I know that 
from experience. In our regiment I was reckoned one of 
the best shots. It once happened that I did not touch a 
pistol for a whole month, a$ I had sent mine to be mended ^ 

THE SHOT. 339 

and would you believe it, Your Excellency, the first time 
I began to shoot again, I missed a bottle four times in 
succession at twenty paces ! Our captain, a witty and 
amusing fellow, happened to be standing by, and he said to 
me : * It is evident, my friend, that your hand will not lift 
itself against the bottle.' No, Your Excellency, you must 
not neglect to practise, or your hand will soon lose its cun- 
ning. The best shot that I ever met used to shoot at least 
three times every day before dinner. It was as much his 
custom to do this, as it was to drink his daily glass of 

The Count and Countess seemed pleased that I had 
begun to talk. 

** And what sort of a shot was he?" asked the Count. 

** Well, it was this way with him. Your Excellency : if he 
saw a fly settle on the wall — you smile, Countess, but, before 
Heaven, it is the truth. If he saw a fly, he would call out : 
* Kouzka, my pistol ! ' Kouzka would bring him a loaded 
pistol — bangi and the fly would be crushed against the 

"Wonderful!" said the Count. "And what was his 
name ? " 

*' Silvio, Your Excellency." 

" Silvio ! " exclaimed the Count, starting up. " Did you 
know Silvio ? " 

" How could I help knowing him, Your Excellency : we 
were intimate friends ; he was received in our regiment like 
a brother officer, but it is now five years since I had any 
tidings of him. Then Your Excellency also knew him ? " 

" Oh, yes, I knew him very well. Did he ever tell you 
of one very strange incident in his life ? " 

" Does Your Excellency refer to the slap in the face that 
he received from some blackguard at a ball ? " 

" Did he tell you the name of this blackguard ?" 

340 poushkin's prose tales. 

'* No, Your Excellency, he never mentioned his name. . . . 
Ah ! Your Excellency ! " I continued, guessing the truth : 
" pardon me ... I did not know . . . could it really have 
been you ? " 

" Yes, I myself," replied the Count, with a look of ex- 
traordinary agitation ; '* and that bullet-pierced picture is a 
memento of our last meeting." 

" Ah, my dear," said the Countess, " for Heaven's sake, 
do not speak about that ; it would be too terrible for me to 
listen to." 

" No," replied the Count : " I will relate everything. He 
knows how I- insulted his friend, and it is only right that he 
should know how Silvio revenged himself." 

The Count pushed a chair towards me, and with the 
-^^veliest interest I listened to the following story : 

"Five years ago I got married. The first month — the 
honeymoon — I spent here, in this village. To this house I 
am indebted for the happiest moments of my life, as well as 
for one of its most painful recollections. 

" One evening we went out together for a ride on horse- 
back. My wife's horse became restive ; she grew frightened, 
gave the reins to me, and returned home on foot. I rode 
on before. In the courtyard I saw a travelling carriage, 
and I was told that in my study sat waiting for me a man, 
who would not give his name, but who merely said that he 
had business with me. I entered the room and saw in the 
darkness a man, covered with dust and wearing a beard of 
several days' growth. He was standing there, near the 
fireplace. I approached him, trying to remember his 

" ' You do not recognize me, Count ? ' said he, in a 
quivering voice. 

" * Silvio ! ' I cried, and I confess that I felt as if my hair 
had suddenly stood on end. 

THE SHOT, 341 

" * Exactly/ continued he. ' There is a shot due to 
me, and I have come to discharge my pistol. Are you 
ready ? ' 

" His pistol protruded from a side pocket. I measured 
twelve paces and took my stand there in that corner, 
begging him to fire quickly, before my wife arrived. He 
hesitated, and asked for a light. Candles were brought in. 
I closed the doors, gave orders that nobody was to enter, 
and again begged him to fire. He drew out his pistol and 
took aim. ... I counted the seconds ... I thought of 
her ... A terrible minute passed 1 Silvio lowered his 

" ' I regret,' said he, * that the pistol is not loaded with 
cherry-stones . . . the bullet is heavy. It seems to me 
that this is not a duel, but a murder. I am not accustomed 
to taking aim at unarmed men. Let us begin all over 
again ; we will cast lots as to who shall fire first.' 

" My head went round ... I think I raised some objec- 
tion. ... At last we loaded another pistol, and rolled up 
two pieces of paper. He placed these latter in his cap — 
the same through which I had once sent a bullet — and 
again I drew the first number. 

" ' You are devilish lucky, Count,' said he, with a smile 
that I shall never forget. 

" I don't know what was the matter with me, or how it 
was that he managed to make me do it . . . but I fired 
and hit that picture." 

The Count pointed with his finger to the perforated 
picture ; his face glowed like fire j the Countess was whiter 
than her own handkerchief; and I could not restrain an 

" I fired," continued the Count, " and, thank Heaven, 
missed my aim. Then Silvio ... at that moment he was 
really terrible. . . . Silvio raised his hand to take aim at 

342 poushkin's prose tales. 

me. Suddenly the door opens, Masha rushes into the 
room, and with a loud shriek throws herself upon my neck. 
Her presence restored to me all my courage. 

*"My dear,' said I to her, * don't you see that we are 
joking ? How frightened you are ! Go and drink a glass of 
water and then come back to us ; I will introduce you 
to an old friend and comrade.' 

'* Masha still doubted. 

" * Tell me, is my husband speaking the truth ? * said she, 
turning to the terrible Silvio ; * is it true that you are only 
joking ? ' 

" * He is always joking, Countess,' replied Silvio : * once 
he gave me a slap in the face in a joke ; on another occa- 
sion he sent a bullet through my cap in a joke ; and just 
now, when he fired at me and missed me, it was all in a 
joke. And now I feel inclined for a joke.' 

" With these words he raised his pistol to take aim 
at me — right before her ! Masha threw herself at his 

" * Rise, Masha ; are you not ashamed ! ' I cried in a 
rage : * and you, sir, will you cease to make fun of a poor 
woman ? Will you fire or not ? ' 

" * I will not,' replied Silvio : * I am satisfied. I have 
seen your confusion, your alarm. I forced you to fire at 
me. That is sufficient. You will remember me. I leave 
you to your conscience,* 

'* Then he turned to go, but pausing in the doorway, and 
looking at the picture that my shot had passed through, he 
fired at it almost without taking aim, and disappeared. 
My wife had fainted away ; the servants did not venture to 
stop him, the mere look of him filled them with terror. He 
went out upon the steps, called his coachman, and drove 
off before I could recover myself." 

The Count was silent. In this way I learned the end of 

THE SHOT. 343 

the story, whose beginning had once made such a deep 
impression upon me. The hero of it I never saw again. It 
is said that Silvio commanded a detachment of Hetairists 
during the revolt under Alexander Ipsilanti, and that he 
was killed in the battle of Skoulana. 




TOWARDS the end of the year 1811, a memorable 
period for us, the good Gavril Gavrilovitch R 

was living on his domain of Nenaradova. He was cele- 
brated throughout the district for his hospitality and kind- 
heartedness. The neighbours were constantly visiting him : 
some to eat and drink ; some to play at five copeck 
" Boston " with his wife, Praskovia Petrovna ; and some to 
look at their daughter, Maria Gavrilovna, a pale, slender girl 
of seventeen. She was considered a wealthy match, and 
many desired her for themselves or for their sons. 

Maria Gavrilovna had been brought up on French novels, 
and consequently was in love. The object of her choice 
was a poor sub-lieutenant in the army, who was then on 
leave of absence in his village. It need scarcely be men- 
tioned that the young man returned her passion with equal 
ardour, and that the parents of his beloved one, observing 
their mutual inclination, forbade their daughter to think 
of him, and received him worse than a discharged 

Our lovers corresponded with one another and daily saw 
each other alone in the little pine wood or near the old 
chapel. There they exchanged vows of eternal love, 
lamented their cruel fate, and formed various plans. Corre- 
sponding and conversing in this way, they arrived quite 
naturally at the following conclusion : 

If we cannot exist without each other, and the will of 


hard-hearted parents stands in the way of our happiness, 
why cannot we do without them ? 

Needless to mention that this happy idea originated in 
the mind of the young man, and that it was very congenial 
to the romantic imagination of Maria Gavrilovna. 

The winter came and put a stop to their meetings, but 
their correspondence became all the more active. Vladimir 
Nikolaievitch in every letter implored her to give herself up 
to him, to get married secretly, to hide for some time, and 
then throw themselves at the feet of their parents, who would, 
without any doubt, be touched at last by the heroic con- 
stancy and unhappiness of the lovers, and would infallibly 
say to them : " Children, come to our arms ! " 

Maria Gavrilovna hesitated for a long time, and several 
plans for a flight were rejected. At last she consented : on 
the appointed day she was not to take supper, but was to 
retire to her room under the pretext of a headache. Her 
maid was in the plot ; they were both to go into the garden 
by the back stairs, and behind the garden they would find 
ready a sledge, into which they were to get, and then drive 
straight to the church of Jadrino, a village about five versts 
from Nenaradova, where Vladimir would be waiting for 

On the eve of the decisive day, Maria Gavrilovna did not 
sleep the whole night ; she packed and tied up her linen and 
other articles of apparel, wrote a long letter to a sentimental 
young lady, a friend of hers, and another to her parents. 
She took leave of them in the most touching terms, urged 
the invincible strength of passion as an excuse for the step 
she was taking, and wound up with the assurance that she 
should consider it the happiest moment of her life, when 
she should be allowed to throw herself at the feet Oi her 
dear parents. 

After having sealed both letters with a Toula seal, upon 


which were engraved two flaming hearts with a suitable 
inscription, she threw herself upon her bed just before 
daybreak, and dozed off: but even then she was constantly 
! being awakened by terrible dreams. First it seemed to her 
j that at the very moment when she seated herself in the 
j sledge, in order to go and get married, her father stopped 
her, dragged her over the snow with fearful rapidity, and 
threw her into a dark bottomless abyss, down which she fell 
headlong with an indescribable sinking of the heart. Then 
she saw Vladimir lying on the grass, pale and bloodstained. 
With his dying breath he implored her in a piercing voice 
to make haste and marry him. . . . Other fantastic and 
senseless visions floated before her one after another. At 
last she arose, paler than usual, and with an unfeigned 
headache. Her father and mother observed her uneasi- 
ness ; their tender solicitude and incessant inquiries : 
**What is the matter with you, Masha? Are you ill, 
Masha ? " cut her to the heart. She tried to reassure them 
and to appear cheerful, but in vain. 

The evening came. The thought, that this was the last 
day she would pass in the bosom of her family, weighed 
upon her heart. She was more dead than alive. In secret 
she took leave of everybody, of all the objects that sur- 
rounded her. 

Supper was served; her heart began to beat violently. 
In a trembling voice she declared that she did not want any 
supper, and then took leave of her father and mother. They 
kissed her and blessed her as usual, and she could hardly 
restrain herself from weeping. 

On reaching her own room, she threw herself into a chair 
and burst into tears. Her maid urged her to be calm and 
to take courage. Everything was ready. In half an hour 
Masha would leave for ever her parents' house, her room, 
and her peaceful girlish life. . . , 

35C poushkin's prose tales. 

Out in the courtyard the snow was falling heavily; the 
wind howled, the shutters shook and rattled, and everything 
seemed to her to portend misfortune. 

Soon all was quiet in the house : everyone was asleep. 
Masha wrapped herself in a shawl, put on a warm cloak, 
took her small box in her hand, and went down the back 
staircase. Her maid followed her with two bundles. The} 
descended into the garden. The snowstorm had not sub- 
sided ; the wind blew in their faces, as if trying to stop the 
young criminal. With difficulty they reached the end of 
the garden. In the road a sledge awaited them. The 
horses, half-frozen with the cold, would not keep still; 
Vladimir's coachman was walking up and down in front 
of them, trying to restrain their impatience. He helped the 
young lady and her maid into the sledge, placed the box 
and the bundles in the vehicle, seized the reins, and the 
horses dashed off. 

Having intrusted the young lady to the care of fate and 
to the skill of Tereshka the coachman, we will return to our 
young lover. 

Vladimir had spent the whole of the day in driving about. 
In the morning he paid a visit to the priest of Jadrino, and 
having come to an agreement with him after a great deal of 
difficulty, he then set out to seek for witnesses among the 
neighbouring landowners. The first to vfhom he presented 
himself, a retired cornet of about forty years of age, and 
whose name was Dravin, consented with pleasure. The 
adventure, he declared, reminded him of his young days 
and his pranks in the Hussars. He persuaded Vladimir to 
stay to dinner with him, and assured him that he would 
have no difficulty in finding the other two witnesses. And, 
indeed, immediately after dinner, appeared the surveyor 
Schmidt, with moustache and spurs, and the son of the 
captain of police, a lad of sixteen years of age, who had 


recently entered the Uhlans. They not only accepted 
Vladimir's proposal, but even vowed that they were ready 
to sacrifice their lives for him. Vladimir embraced them 
with rapture, and returned home to get everything ready. 

It had been dark for some time. He dispatched his faithful 
Tereshka to Nenaradova with his sledge and with detailed 
instructions, and ordered for himself the small sledge with 
one horse, and set out alone, without any coachman, for 
Jadrino, where Maria Gavrilovna ought to arrive in about a 
couple of hours. He knew the road well, and the journey 
would only occupy about twenty minutes altogether. 

But scarcely had Vladimir issued from the paddock into 
the open field, when the wind rose and such a snowstorm 
came on that he could see nothing. In one minute the 
road was completely hidden ; all surrounding objects dis- 
appeared in a thick yellow fog, through which fell the white 
flakes of snow ; earth and sky became confounded. Vladimir 
found himself in the middle of the field, and tried in vain to 
find the road again. His horse went on at random, and at 
every moment kept either stepping into a snowdrift or 
stumbling into a hole, so that the sledge was constantly 
being overturned. Vladimir endeavoured not to lose the 
right direction. But it seemed to him that more than half 
an hour had already passed, and he had not yet reached the 
Jadrino wood. Another ten minutes elapsed — still no wood 
was to be seen. Vladimir drove across a field intersected 
by deep ditches. The snowstorm did not abate, the sky 
did not become any clearer. The horse began to grow 
tired, and the perspiration rolled from him in great drops, in 
spite of the fact that he was constantly being half-buried in 
the snow. 

At last Vladimir perceived that he was going in the wrong 
direction. He stopped, began to think, to recollect, and 
compare, and he felt convinced that he ought to have turned 


to the right. He turned to the right now. His horse could 
scarcely move forward. He had now been on the road for 
more than an hour. Jadrino could not be far off. But on and 
on he went, and still no end to the field — nothing but snow- 
drifts and ditches. The sledge was constantly being over- 
turned, and as constantly being set right again. The 
time was passing : Vladimir began to grow seriously un- 

At last something dark appeared in the distance. Vladi- 
mir directed his course towards it. On drawing near, he 
perceived that it was a wood. 

" Thank Heaven ! " he thought, " I am not far off now." 

He drove along by the edge of the wood, hoping by-and- 
by to fall upon the well-known road or to pass round the 
wood : Jadrino was situated just behind it. He soon found 
the road, and plunged into the darkness of the wood, now 
denuded of leaves by the winter. The wind could not rage 
here ; the road was smooth ; the horse recovered courage, 
and Vladimir felt reassured. 

But he drove on and on, and Jadrino was not to be seen ; 
there was no end to the wood. Vladimir discovered with 
horror that he had entered an unknown forest. Despair 
took possession of him. He whipped the horse ; the poor 
animal broke into a trot, but it soon slackened its pace, and 
in about a quarter of an hour it was scarcely able to drag 
one leg after the other, in spite of all the exertions of the 
unfortunate Vladimir. 

Gradually the trees began to get sparser, and Vladimir 
emerged from the forest ; but Jadrino was not to be seen. 
It must now have been about midnight. Tears gushed 
from his eyes; he drove on at random. Meanwhile the 
storm had subsided, the clouds dispersed, and before him 
lay a level plain covered with a white undulating carpet. 
The night was tolerably clear. He saw, not far off, a little 


village, consisting of four or five houses. Vladimir drove 
towards it. At the first cottage he jumped out of the sledge, 
ran to the window and began to knock. After a few minutes, 
the wooden shutter was raised, and an old man thrust out 
his grey beard. 

''What do you want?" 

" Is jidrino far from here ? " 

*' Is Jadrino far from here ? " 

"Yes, yes! Is it far?" 

" Not far ; about ten versts." 

At this reply, Vladimir grasped his hair and stood motion- 
less, like a man condemned to death. 

"Where do you come from?" continued the old man. 

Vladimir had not the courage to answer the question. 

" Listen, old man," said he : " can you procure me horses 
to take me to Jadrino ? " 

" How should we have such things as horses ? " replied 
the peasant. 

"Can I obtain a guide? I will pay him whatever he 

"Wait," s^id the old man, closing the shutter; "I will 
send my son out to you ; he will guide you." 

Vladimir waited. But a minute had scarcely elapsed 
when he began knocking again. The shutter was raised, 
and the beard again appeared. 

" What do you want ? " 

" What about your son ? " 

" He'll be out presently ; he is putting on his boots. Are 
you cold? Come in and warm yourself." 

" Thank you ; send your son out quickly." 

The door creaked : a lad came out with a cudgel and 
went on in front, at one time pointing out the road, at another 
searching for it among the drifted snow. 

"What is the time?" Vladimir asked him. 

354 poushkin's prose tales. 

"It will soon be daylight," replied the young peasant, 
Vladimir spoke not another word. 

The cocks were crowing, and it was already light when 
they reached Jadrino. The church was closed. Vladimir 
paid the guide and drove into the priest's courtyard. His 
sledge was not there. What news awaited him ! 

But let us return to the worthy proprietors of Nenaradova, 
and see what is happening there. 


The old people awoke and went into the parlour, Gavril 
Gavrilovitch in a night-cap and flannel doublet, Praskovia 
Petrovna in a wadded dressing-gown. The tea-urn was 
brought in, and Gavril Gavrilovitch sent a servant to ask 
Maria Gavrilovna how she was and how she had passed the 
night. The servant returned, saying that the young lady 
had not slept very well, but that she felt better now, and 
that she would come down presently into the parlour. And 
indeed, the door opened and Maria Gavrilovna entered the 
room and wished her father and mother good morning. 

" How is your head, Masha ? " asked Gavril Gavrilovitch. 

" Better, papa," replied Masha. 

"Very likely you inhaled the fumes from the charcoal 
yesterday," said Praskovia Petrovna. 

*' Very likely, mamma," replied Masha. 

The day passed happily enough, but in the night Masha 
was taken ill. A doctor was sent for from the town. He 
arrived in the evening and found the sick girl delirious. A 
violent fever ensued, and for two weeks the poor patient 
hovered on the brink of the grave. 

Nobody in the house knew anything about her flight. The 
letters, written by her the evening before, had been burnt ; 
and her maid, dreading the wrath of her master, had not 
whispered a word about it to anybody. The priest, the 
retired cornet, the moustached surveyor, and the Httle 


Uhlan were discreet, and not without reason. Tereshka, 
the coachman, never uttered one word too much about it, 
even when he was drunk. Thus the secret was kept by 
more than half-a-dozen conspirators. 

But Maria Gavrilovna herself divulged her secret during her 
delirious ravings. But her words were so disconnected, that 
her mother, who never left her bedside, could only under- 
stand from them that her daughter was deeply in love with 
Vladimir Nikolaievitch, and that probably love was the 
cause of her illness. She consulted her husband and some 
of her neighbours, and at last it was unanimously decided 
that such was evidently Maria Gavrilovna's fate, that a 
woman cannot ride away from the man who is destined to 
be her husband, that poverty is not a crime, that one does 
not marry wealth, but a man, etc., etc. Moral proverbs are 
wonderfully useful in those cases where we can invent little 
in our own justification. 

In the meantime the young lady began to recover. 
Vladimir had not been seen for a long time in the house of 
Gavril Gavrilovitch. He was afraid of the usual reception. 
It was resolved to send and announce to him an unexpected 
piece of good news : the consent of Maria's parents to his 
marriage with their daughter. But what was the astonish- 
ment of the proprietor of Nenaradova, when, in reply to 
their invitation, they received from him a half-insane letter. 
He informed them that he would never set foot in theii 
house again, and begged them to forget an unhappy creature 
whose only hope was in death. A few days afterwards they 
heard that Vladimir had joined the army again. This was 
in the year 1812. 

For a long time they did not dare to announce this to 
Masha, who was now convalescent. She never mentioned 
the name of Vladimir. Some months afterwards, finding 
his name in the list of those who had distingui«hed them- 


356 poushkin's prose tales, 

selves and been severely wounded at Borodino,^ she fainted 
away, and it was feared that she would have another attack 
of fever. But, Heaven be thanked ! the fainting fit had no 
serious consequences. 

Another misfortune fell upon her: Gavril Gavrilovitch 
died, leaving her the heiress to all his property. But the 
inheritance did not console her; she shared sincerely the 
grief of poor Praskovia Petrovna, vowing that she would 
never leave her. They both quitted Nenaradova, the scene 
of so many sad recollections, and went to live on another 

Suitors crowded round the young and wealthy heiress, but 
she gave not the slightest hope to any of them. Her mother 
sometimes exhorted her to make a choice; but Maria 
Gavrilovna shook her head and became pensive. Vladimir 
no longer existed : he had died in Moscow on the eve of the 
entry of the French. His memory seemed to be held 
sacred by Masha ; at least she treasured up everything that 
could remind her of him : books that he had once read, his 
drawings, his notes, and verses of poetry that he had copied 
out for her. The neighbours, hearing of all this, were 
astonished at her constancy, and awaited with curiosity the 
hero who should at last triumph over the melancholy fidelity 
of this virgin Artemisia. 

Meanwhile the war had ended gloriously. Our regiments 
returned from abroad, and the people went out to meet 
them. The bands played the conquering songs : " Vive 
Henri-Quatre," Tyrolese waltzes and airs from *' Joconde." 
Officers, who had set out for the war almost mere lads, 
returned grown men, with martial air, and their breasts 
decorated with crosses. The soldiers chatted gaily among 

' A village about fifty miles from Moscow, and the scene of a san- 
guinary battle between the French and Russian forces during the 
invasion of pfhssia by Napoleon I. 


themselves, constantly mingling French and German words 
in their speech. Time never to be forgotten ! Time of 
glory and enthusiasm ! How throbbed the Russian heart at 
the word " Fatherland ! " How sweet were the tears of 
meeting ! With what unanimity did we unite feelings of 
national pride with love for the Czar ! And for him— what 
a moment ! 

The women, the Russian women, were then incomparable. 
Their usual coldness disappeared. Their enthusiasm was 
truly intoxicating, when welcoming the conquerors they 
cried "Hurrah!" 

*' And threw their caps high in the air ! " ' 

What officer of that time does not confess that to the 
Russian women he was indebted for his best and most 
precious reward ? 

At this brilliant period Maria Gavrilovna was living with 

her mother in the province of , and did not see how 

both capitals celebrated the return of the troops. But in 
the districts and villages the general enthusiasm was, if 
possible, even still greater. The appearance of an officer in 
those places was for him a veritable triumph, and the lover 
in a plain coat felt very ill at ease in his vicinity. 

We have already said that, in spite of her coldness, Maria 
Gavrilovna was, as before, surrounded by suitors. But all 
had to retire into the background when the wounded 
Colonel Bourmin of the Hussars, with the Order of St. George 
in his button-hole, and with an " interesting pallor," as the 
young ladies of the neighbourhood observed, appeared at 
the castle. He was about twenty-six years of age. He had 
obtained leave of absence to visit his estate, which was con- 
tiguous to that of Maria Gavrilovna. Maria bestowed 
special attention upon him. In his presence her habitual 

* Griboiedoif. 


pensiveness disappeared. It cannot be said that she 
coquetted with him, but a poet, observing her behaviour, 
would have said : 

** Se amor non h, che dunque ?" 

Bourmin was indeed a very charming young man. He 
possessed that spirit which is eminently pleasing to women : 
a spirit of decorum and observation, without any preten- 
sions, and yet not without a slight tendency towards careless 
satire. His behaviour towards Maria Gavrilovna was 
simple and frank, but whatever she said or did, his soul and 
eyes followed her. He seemed to be of a quiet and modest 
disposition, though report said that he had once been a 
terrible rake; but this did not injure him in the opinion of 
Maria Gavrilovna, who — like all young ladies in general — 
excused with pleasure follies that gave indication of boldness 
and ardour of temperament. 

But more than everything else — more than his tenderness, 
more than his agreeable conversation, more than his interest- 
ing pallor^ more than his arm in a sling, — the silence of the 
young Hussar excited her curiosity and imagination. She 
could, not but confess that he pleased her very much ; pro- 
bably he, too, with his perception and experience, had 
already observed that she made a distinction between him 
and others ; how was it then that she had not yet seen him 
at her feet or heard his declaration? What restrained him? 
Was it timidity, inseparable from true love, or pride, or the 
coquetry of a crafty wooer? It was an enigma to her. 
After long reflection, she came to the conclusion that 
timidity alone was the cause of it, and she resolved to 
encourage him by greater attention and, if circumstances 
should render it necessary, even by an exhibition of tender- 
ness. She prepared a most unexpected denouement, and 
waited with impatience for the moment of the romantic 


explanation. A secet, of whatever nature it may be, always 
presses heavily upon the female heart. Her stratagem had 
the desired success; at least Bourmin fell into such a 
reverie, and his black eyes rested with such fire upon her, 
that the decisive moment seemed close at hand. The 
neighbours spoke about the marriage as if it were a matter 
already decided upon, and good Praskovia Petrovna 
rejoiced that her daughter had at last found a lover worthy 
of her. 

On one occasion the old lady was sitting alone in the 
parlour, amusing herself with a pack of cards, when Bourmin 
entered the room and immediately inquired for Maria 

*' She is in the garden," replied the old lady : " go out to 
her, and I will wait here for you." 

Bourmin went, and the old lady made the sign of the 
cross and thought : " Perhaps the business will be settled 
to-day ! " 

Bourmin found Maria Gavrilovna near the pond, under a 
willow-tree,^ with a book in her hands, and in a white dress : 
a veritable heroine of romance. After the first few questions 
and observations, Maria Gavrilovna purposely allowed the 
conversation to drop, thereby increasing their mutual 
embarrassment, from which there was no possible way of 
escape except only by a sudden and decisive declaration. 

And this is what happened : Bourmin, feeling the difficulty 
of his position, declared that he had long sought for an 
opportunity to open his heart to her, and requested a 
moment's attention. Maria Gavrilovna closed her book 
and cast down her eyes, as a sign of compliance with his 

" I love you," said Bourmin : '* I love you passionately. 

Maria Gavrilovna blushed and lowered her head still 

36o poushkin's prose tales. 

more. " I have acted imprudently in accustoming myself 
to the sweet pleasure of seeing and hearing you daily. . . ." 
Maria Gavrilovna recalled to mind the first letter of St. 
Preux.^ ''But it is now too late to resist my fate; the 
remembrance of you, your dear incomparable image, will 
henceforth be the torment and the consolation of my Hfe, 
but there still remains a grave duty for me to perform — to 
reveal to you a terrible secret which will place between us 
an insurmountable barrier. . . ." 

" That barrier has always existed," interrupted Maria 
Gavrilovna hastily : " I could never be your wife." 

" I know," replied he calmly : " I know that you once 
loved, but death and three years of mourning. . . . Dear, 
kind Maria Gavrilovna, do not try to deprive me of my last 
consolation : the thought that you would have consented to 
make me happy, if " 

"Don't speak, for Heaven's sake, don't speak. You 
torture me." 

" Yes, I know, I feel that you would have been mine, 
but — I am the most miserable creature under the sun — I am 
already married ! " 

Maria Gavrilovna looked at him in astonishment. 

" I am already married," continued Bourmin : " I have 
been married four years, and I do not know who is my wife, 
or where she is, or whether I shall ever see her again ! " 

" What do you say ? " exclaimed Maria Gavrilovna. 
" How very strange ! Continue : I will relate to you after- 
wards. . . . But continue, I beg of you." 

"At the beginning of the year 1812," said Bourmin, "I 
was hastening to Vilna, where my regiment was stationed. 
Arriving late one evening at one of the post-stations, 
I ordered the horses to be got ready as quickly as possible, 

^ In "La Nouvelle Heloise," by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. 


when suddenly a terrible snowstorm came on, and the post- 
master and drivers advised me to wait till it had passed 
over. I followed their advice, but an unaccountable un- 
easiness took possession of me : it seemed as if someone 
were pushing me forward. Meanwhile the snowstorm did 
not subside ; I could endure it no longer, and again order- 
ing out the horses, I started off in the midst of the storm. 
The driver conceived the idea of following the course of the 
river, which would shorten our journey by three versts. 
The banks were covered with snow : the driver drove past 
the place where we should have come out upon the road, 
and so we found ourselves in an unknown part of the 
country. . . . The storm did not cease ; I saw a light in the 
distance, and I ordered the driver to proceed towards it. 
We reached a village ; in the wooden church there was 
a light. The church was open. Outside the railings stood 
several sledges, and people were passing in and out through 
the porch. 

" * This way ! this way ! ' cried several voices. 

" I ordered the driver to proceed. 

*' ' In the name of Heaven, where have you been loiter- 
ing ? ' said somebody to me. ' The bride has fainted away ; 
the pope does not know what to do, and we were just getting 
ready to go back. Get out as quickly as you can.' 

" I got out of the sledge without saying a word, and went 
into the church, which was feebly lit up by two or three 
tapers. A young girl was sitting on a bench in a dark 
corner of the church; another girl was rubbing her 

" ' Thank God ! ' said the latter, ' you have come at last. 
Vou have almost killed the young lady.' 

" The old priest advanced towards me, and said : 

" ' Do you wish me to begin ? ' 

'* * Begin, begin, father,' replied I, absently. 


" The young girl was raised up. She seemed to me not 
at all bad-looking. . . . Impelled by an incomprehensible, 
unpardonable levity, I placed myself by her side in front of 
the pulpit ; the priest hurried on ; three men and a chamber- 
maid supported the bride and only occupied themselves 
with her. We were married. 

" * Kiss each other ! ' said the witnesses to us. 

** My wife turned her pale face towards me. I was about 
to kiss her, when she exclaimed : * Oh ! it is not he ! it is not 
he ! ' and fell senseless. 

" The witnesses gazed at me in alarm. I turned round 
and left the church without the least hindrance, flung myself 
into the kibitka and cried : * Drive off!' 

" My God ! " exclaimed Maria Gavrilovna. " And you do 
not know what became of your poor wife ? " 

" I do not know," replied Bourmin ; " neither do I know 
the name of the village where I was married, nor the post- 
station where I set out from. At that time I attached 
so little importance to my wicked prank, that on leaving 
the church, I fell asleep, and did not awake till the next 
morning aftei leaching the third station. The servant, who 
was then with me, died during the campaign, so that I have 
no hope of ever discovering the woman upon whom I played 
such a cruel joke, and who is now so cruelly avenged." 

" My God ! my God ! " cried Maria Gavrilovna, seizing 
him by the hand : *' then it was you ! And you do not 
recognize me ? " 

Bourmin turned pale — and threw himself at her feet. 




WHO has not cursed postmasters, who has not quarrelled 
with them ? Who, in a moment of anger, has not de- 
manded from them the fatal book in order to record in it 
unavailing complaints of their extortions, rudeness and 
unpunctuality ? Who does not look upon them as monsters 
of the human race, equal to the defunct attorneys, or, at 
least, the brigands of Mourom ? Let us, however, be just ; 
let us place ourselves in their position, and perhaps we shall 
begin to judge them with more indulgence. What is a 
postmaster? A veritable martyr of the fourteenth class,^ only 
protected by his rank from blows, and that not always 
(I appeal to the conscience of my readers). What is 
the function of this dictator, as Prince Viazemsky jokingly 
calls him ? Is he not an actual galley-slave ? He has 
no rest either day or night. All the vexation accumulated 
during the course of a wearisome journey the traveller vents 
upon the postmaster. Should the weather prove intoler- 
able, the road abominable, the driver obstinate, the horses 
ungovernable — the postmaster is to blame. Entering into 
his poor abode, the traveller looks upon him as an enemy, 
and the postmaster is fortunate if he succeeds in soon 
getting rid of his uninvited guest ; but if there should 
happen to be no horses ! . . . Heavens ! what volleys of 

^ The Chinnovniks, or official nobles of Russia, are divided into 
fourteen classes, the fourteenth being the lowest. The members of this 
latter class were formerly little removed from serfs. 


abuse, what threats are showered upon his head ! In 
rain and sleet he is compelled to go out into the court- 
yard ; during times of storm and nipping frost, he is 
glad to seek shelter in the vestibule, if only to enjoy a 
minute's repose from the shouting and jostling of incensed 

A general arrives : the trembling postmaster gives him 
the two last troikas^ including that intended for the courier. 
The general drives off without uttering a word of thanks. 
Five minutes afterwards — a bell ! . . . and a courier throws 
down upon the table before him . his order for fresh 
post-horses ! . . Let us bear all this well in mind, and, 
instead of anger, our hearts will be filled with sincere com- 
passion. A few words more. Inuring a period of twenty 
years I have traversed Russia in every direction ; I know 
nearly all the post roads, and I have made the acquaintance' 
of several generations of drivers. There are very few post- 
masters that I do not know personally, and few with whom 
I have not had business relations. In the course of time I 
hope to publish some curious observations that I have noted 
down during my travels. For the present I will only say 
that the body of postmasters is presented to the public in a 
very false light. These much-calumniated officials are gener- 
ally very peaceful persons, obliging by nature, disposed to 
be sociable, modest in their pretensions and not too much 
addicted to the love of money. From their conversation 
(which travelling gentlemen very unreasonably despise) 
much may be learnt that is both interesting and instructive. 
For my own part, I confess that I prefer their talk 
to that of some official of the sixth class travelling on 
government business. 

It may easily be supposed that I have friends among the 
honourable body of postmasters. Indeed, the memory of 
one of them is dear to me. Circumstances once brought 


US together, and it is of him that I now intend to tell 
my amiable readers. 

In the month of May of the year 1816, I happened to be 

travelling through the Government of N , upon a road 

now destroyed. I then held an inferior rank, and I travelled 
by post stages, paying the fare for two horses. As a conse- 
quence, the postmasters treated me with very little cere- 
mony, and I often had to take by force what, in my opinion, 
belonged to me by right. Being young and passionate, I 
was indignant at the baseness and cowardice of the post- 
master, when the latter harnessed to the caliche of some 
official noble, the horses prepared for me. It was a long 
time, too, before I could get accustomed to being served 
out of my turn by a discriminating servant at the governor's 
dinner. To-day the one and the other seem to me to be 
in the natural order of things. Indeed, what would become 
of us, if, instead of the generally observed rule : '* Let rank 
honour rank," another were to be brought into use, as for 
example : " Let mind honour mind ? " What disputes would 
arise ! And with whom would the servants begin in serving 
the dishes? But to return to my story. 

The day was hot. About three versts from A , a 

drizzling rain came on, and in a few minutes it began to 
pour down in torrents and I was drenched to the skin. On 
arriving at the station, my first care was to change my 
clothes as quickly as possible, my second to ask for some tea. 

** Hi ! Dounia ! " ^ cried the Postmaster : ** prepare the 
tea-urn and go and get some cream." 

At these words, a young girl of about fourteen years of 
age appeared from behind the partition, and ran out into 
the vestibule. Her beauty struck me. 

** Is that your daughter ? " I inquired of the Postmaster. 

* Diminutive of Avdotia. 


" That is my daughter," he replied, with a look of gratified 
pride ; ** and she is so sharp and sensible, just like her late 

Then he began to register my travelling passport, and I 
occupied myself with examining the pictures that adorned 
his humble abode. They illustrated the story of the 
Prodigal Son. In the first, a venerable old man, in a 
night-cap and dressing-gown, is taking leave of the restless 
youth, who is eagerly accepting his blessing and a bag of 
money. In the next picture, the dissipated life of the 
young man is depicted in vivid colours : he is represented 
sitting at a table surrounded by false friends and shameless 
women. Further on, the ruined youth, in rags and a three- 
cornered hat, is tending swine and sharing with them their 
food : on his face is expressed deep grief and repentance. 
The last picture represented his return to his father : the 
good old man, in the same night-cap and dressing-gown, 
runs forward to meet him; the prodigal son falls on his 
knees; in the distance the cook is killing the fatted calf, 
and the elder brother is asking the servants the cause of all 
the rejoicing. Under each picture I read some suitable 
German verses. All this I have preserved in my memory 
to the present day, as well as the little pots of balsams, the 
bed with speckled curtains, and the other objects with 
which I was then surrounded. I can see at the present 
moment the host himself, a man of about fifty years of age, 
fresh and strong, in his long green surtout with three medals 
on faded ribbons. 

I had scarcely settled my account with my old driver, 
when Dounia returned with the tea-urn. The little coquette 
saw at the second glance the impression she had produced 
upon me ; she lowered her large blue eyes ; I began to talk 
to her; she answered me without the least timidity, like a 
girl who has seen the world. I offered her father a glass of 


punch, to Dounia herself I gave a cup of tea, and then the 
three of us began to converse together, as if we were old 

The horses had long been ready, but I felt reluctant to 
take leave of the Postmaster and his daughter. At last I 
bade them good-bye, the father wished me a pleasant 
journey, the daughter accompanied me to the telega. In 
the vestibule I stopped and asked her permission to kiss 
her; Dounia consented. ... I can reckon up a great 
many kisses since that time, but not one which has left 
behind such a long, such a pleasant recollection. 

Several years passed, and circumstances led me to the 
same road, and to the same places. 

"But," thought I, ''perhaps the old Postmaster has been 
changed, and Dounia may already be married." 

The thought that one or the other of them might be dead 
also flashed through my mind, and I approached the station 

of A with a sad presentiment. The horses drew up 

before the little post-house. On entering the room, I 
immediately recognized the pictures illustrating the story of 
the Prodigal Son. The table and the bed stood in the 
same places as before, but the flowers were no longer on 
the window-sills, and everything around indicated decay 
and neglect. ^ 

The Postmaster was asleep under his sheep-skin pelisse ; 
my arrival awoke him, and he rose up. . . . It was certainly 
Simeon Virin, but how aged ! While he was preparing to 
register my travelling passport, I gazed at his grey hairs, 
the deep wrinkles upon his face, that had not been shaved 
for a long time, his bent back, and I was astonished to see 
how three or four years had been able to transform a strong 
and active individual into a feeble old man. 

"Do you recognize me?" I asked him: "we are old 


** May be," replied he mournfully ; " this is a high road, 
and many travellers have stopped here." 

" Is your Dounia well?" I continued. 

The old man frowned. 

" God knows," he replied. 

** Probably she is married ? " said I. 

The old man pretended not to have heard my question, 
and went on reading my passport in a low tone. I ceased 
questioning him and ordered some tea. Curiosity began to 
torment me, and I hoped that the punch would loosen the 
tongue of my old acquaintance. 

I was not mistaken; the old man did not refuse the 
proffered glass. I observed that the rum dispelled his 
mournfulness. At the second glass he began to talk; he 
remembered me, or appeared as if he remembered me, and 
I heard from him a story, which at the time, deeply in- 
terested and affected me. 

"So you knew my Dounia?" he began. "But who did 
not know her? Ah, Dounia, Dounia! What a girl she 
was ! Everybody who passed this way praised her ; nobody 
had a word to say against her. The ladies used to give her 
presents — now a handkerchief, now a pair of earrings. The 
gentlemen used to stop intentionally, as if to dine or to take 
supper, but in reality only to take a longer look at her. 
However angry a gentleman might be, in her presence he 
grew calm and spoke graciously to me. Would you believe 
it, sir: couriers and Court messengers used to talk to her 
for half-hours at a stretch. It was she who kept the house ; 
she put everything in order, got everything ready, and 
looked after everything. And I, like an old fool, could not 
look at her enough, could not idolize her enough. Did I 
not love my Dounia ? Did I not indulge my child ? Was 
not her life a happy one ? But no, there is no escaping 
misfortune : there is no evading what has been decreed." 


Then he began to tell me his sorrow in detail. Three 
years before, one winter evening, when the Postmaster was 
ruling a new book, and his daughter behind the partition 
was sewing a dress, a troika drove up, and a traveller in a 
Circassian cap and military cloak, and enveloped in a shawl, 
entered the room and demanded horses. The horses were 
all out. On being told this, the traveller raised his voice and 
whip ; but Dounia, accustomed to such scenes, ran out from 
behind the partition and graciously inquired of the traveller 
whether he would not like something to eat and drink. 

The appearance of Dounia produced the usual effect. 
The traveller's anger subsided; he consented to wait for 
horses, and ordered supper. Having taken off his wet 
shaggy cap, and divested himself of his shawl and cloak, 
the traveller was seen to be a tall, young Hussar with a 
black moustache He made himself comfortable with the 
Postmaster, and began to converse in a pleasant manner 
with him and his daughter. Supper was served. Mean- 
while the horses returned, and the Postmaster ordered 
them, without being fed, to be harnessed immediately to 
the traveller's kibitka. But on returning to the room, he 
found the young man lying almost unconscious on the 
bench ; he had come over faint, his head ached, it was 
impossible for him to continue his journey. What was to 
be done? The Postmaster gave up his own bed to him, 
and it was decided that if the sick man did not get better, 
they would send next day to C for the doctor. 

The next day the Hussar was worse. His servant rode 
to the town for the doctor. Dounia bound round his head 
a handkerchief steeped in vinegar, and sat with her needle- 
work beside his bed. In the presence of the Postmaster, 
the sick man sighed and scarcely uttered a word ; but he 
drank two cups of coffee, and, with a sigh, ordered dinner. 
Dounia did not quit his side. He constantly asked for 




something to drink, and Dounia gave him a jug of lemonade 
prepared by herself. The sick man moistened his lips, and 
each time, on returning the jug, he feebly pressed Dounia's 
hand in token of gratitude. 

About dinner time the doctor arrived. He felt the sick 
man's pulse, spoke to him in German, and declared in 
Russian that he only needed rest, and that in about a couple 
of days he would be able to set out on his journey. The 
Hussar gave him twenty-five roubles for his visit, and 
invited him to dinner; the doctor accepted the invitation. 
They both ate with a good appetite, drank a bottle of wine, 
and separated very well satisfied with each other. 

Another day passed, and the Hussar felt quite himself 
again. He was extraordinarily lively, joked unceasingly, 
now with Dounia, now with the Postmaster, whistled tunes, 
chatted with the travellers, copied their passports into the 
post-book, and so won upon the worthy Postmaster, that 
when the third day arrived, it was with regret that he parted 
with his amiable guest 

The day was Sunday; Dounia was preparing to go to 
mass. The Hussar's kibitka stood ready. He took leave 
of the Postmaster, after having generously recompensed 
him for his board and lodging, bade farewell to Dounia, 
and offered to drive her as far as the church, which was 
situated at the end of the village. Dounia hesitated. 

"What are you afraid of?" asked her father. *'His 
Excellency is not a wolf : he won't eat you. Drive with him 
as far as the church." 

Dounia seated herself in the kibitka by the side of the 
Hussar, the servant sprang upon the box, the driver whistled, 
and the horses started off at a gallop. 

The poor Postmaster could not understand how he could 
have allowed his Dounia to drive off" with the Hussar, how 
he could have been so blind, and what had become of his 


senses at that moment. A half-hour had not elapsed, 
before his heart began to grieve, and anxiety and uneasiness 
took possession of him to such a degree, that he could con- 
tain himself no longer, and started off for mass himself. 
On reaching the church, he saw that the people were 
already beginning to disperse, but Dounia was neither in 
the churchyard nor in the porch. He hastened into the 
church : the priest was leaving the altar, the clerk was ex- 
tinguishing the candles, two old women were still praying 
in a corner, but Dounia was not in the church. The poor 
father was scarcely able to summon up sufficient resolution 
to ask the clerk if she had been to mass. The clerk replied 
that she had not. The Postmaster returned home neither 
alive nor dead. One hope alone remained to him : 
Dounia, in the thoughtlessness of youth, might have taken 
it into her head to go on as far as the next station, where 
her godmother lived. In agonizing agitation he awaited the 
return of the troika in which he had let her set out. The 
driver did not return. At last, in the evening, he arrived 
alone and intoxicated, with the terrible news that Dounia 
had gone on with the Hussar at the other station. 

The old man could not bear his misfortune : he imme- 
diately took to that very same bed where, the evening 
before, the young deceiver had lain. Taking all the 
circumstances into account, the Postmaster now came to 
the conclusion that the illness had been a mere pretence. 
The poor man fell ill with a violent fever ; he was removed 

to C , and in his place another person was appointed 

for the time being. The same doctor, who had attended 
the Hussar, attended him also. He assured the Postmaster 
that the young man had been perfectly well, and that at the 
time of his visit he had suspected him of some evil inten- 
tion, but that he had kept silent through fear of his whip. 
Whether the German spoke the truth or only wished to 

374 poushkin's prose tales. 

boast of his perspicacity, his communication afforded no 
consolation to the poor invalid. Scarcely had the latter 
recovered from his illness, when he asked the Postmaster of 

C for two months' leave of absence, and without saying 

a word to anybody of his intention, he set out on foot in 
search of his daughter. 

From the travelling passport he found out that Captain 
Minsky was journeying from Smolensk to St. Petersburg. 
The yemshik ^ who drove him, said that Dounia had wept 
the whole of the way, although she seemed to go of her 
own free will. 

" Perhaps," thought the Postmaster, " I shall bring back 
home my erring ewe-lamb." 

With this thought he reached St. Petersburg, stopped at 
the barracks of the Ismailovsky Regiment, in the quarters 
of a retired non-commissioned officer, an old comrade of 
his, and then began his search. He soon discovered that 
Captain Minsky was in St. Petersburg, and was living at the 
Demoutoff Hotel. The Postmaster resolved to call upon 

Early in the morning he went to Minsky's ante-chamber, 
and requested that His Excellency might be informed that 
an old soldier wished to see him. The military servant, 
who was cleaning a boot on a boot-tree, informed him that 
his master was still asleep, and that he never received any- 
body before eleven o'clock. The Postmaster retired and 
returned at the appointed time. Minsky himself came out 
to him in his dressing-gown and red skull-cap. 

** Well, my friend, what do you want ? " he asked. 

The old man's heart began to boil, tears started to his 
eyes, and he was only able to say in a trembling voice : 

" Your Excellency 1 ... do me the divine favour ! . . • 

* Driver. 


Minsky glanced quickly at him, grew confused, took 
him by the hand, led him into his cabinet and locked the 

" Your Excellency ! " continued the old man : " what has 
fallen from the load is lost ; give me back at least my poor 
Dounia. You have made her your plaything; do not ruin 
her entirely." 

" What is done cannot be undone," said the young man, 
in the utmost confusion ; " I am guilty before you, and am 
ready to ask your pardon, but do not think that I could 
forsake Dounia : she shall be happy, I give you my word of 
honour. Why do you want her ? She loves me ; she has 
become disused to her former existence. Neither you nor 
she will forget what has happened." 

Then, pushing something up the old man's sleeve, he 
opened the door, and the Postmaster, without remembering 
how, found himself in the street again. 

For a long time he stood immovable; at last he ob- 
served in the cuff of his sleeve a roll of papers ; he drew 
them out and unrolled several fifty rouble notes. Tears 
again filled his eyes, tears of indignation ! He crushed the 
notes into a ball, flung them upon the ground, stamped 
upon them with the heel of his boot, and then walked 
away. . . . After having gone a few steps, he stopped, 
reflected, and returned . . . but the notes were no longer 
there. A well-dressed young man, observing him, ran 
towards a droshky^ jumped in hurriedly, and cried to the 
driver : " Go on ! " 

The Postmaster did not pursue him. He resolved to re- 
turn home to his station, but before doing so he wished to 
see his poor Dounia once more. For that purpose, he 
returned to Minsky's lodgings a couple of days afterwards, 
but the military servant told him roughly that his master re- 
C^ved nobody, pushed hjm out gf the Jinte-chambei 


and slammed the door in his face. The Postmaster stood 
waiting for a long time, then he walked away. 

That same day, in the evening, he was walking along the 
Liteinaia, having been to a service at the Church of the 
Afflicted. Suddenly a stylish droshky flew past him, 
and the Postmaster recognized Minsky. The droshky 
stopped in front of a three-storeyed house, close to the 
entrance, and the Hussar ran up the steps. A happy 
thought flashed through the mind of the Postmaster. 
He returned, and, approaching the coachman : 

'* Whose horse is this, my friend? " asked he : " Doesn't 
it belong to Minsky ? " 

" Exactly so," replied the coachman : " what do you 

"Well, your master ordered me to carry a letter to 
his Dounia, and I have forgotten where his Dounia 

*'She lives here, on the second floor. But you are 
late with your letter, my friend; he is with her himself 
just now." 

^'That doesn't matter," replied the Postmaster, with 
an inexplicable beating of the heart. "Thanks for your 
information, but I shall know how to manage my business." 
And with these words he ascended the staircase. 

The door was locked; he rang. There was a painful 
delay of several seconds. The key rattled, and the door was 

" Does Avdotia Simeonovna live here ? " he asked. 

" Yes," replied a young female servant : " what do you 
want with her?" 

The Postmaster, without replying, walked into the 

** You mustn't go in, you mustn't go in ! " the servant cried 
put after him : " Avdotia Simeonovn^ h^s visitors." 


But the Postmaster, without heeding her, walked straight 
on. The first two rooms were dark ; in the third there was 
a light. He approached the open door and paused. In 
the room, which was beautifully furnished, sat Minsky 
in deep thought. Dounia, attired in the most elegant 
fashion, was sitting upon the arm of his chair, like a 
lady rider upon her English saddle. She was gazing 
tenderly at Minsky, and winding his black curls round 
her sparkling fingers. Poor Postmaster ! Never had his 
daughter seemed to him so beautiful ; he admired her 
against his will. 

" Who is there ? " she asked, without raising her head. 

He remained silent. Receiving no reply, Dounia raised 
her head. . . . and with a cry she fell upon the carpet. 
The alarmed Minsky hastened to pick her up, but suddenly 
catching sight of the old Postmaster in the doorway, he left 
Dounia and approached him, trembling with rage. 

" What do you want ? " he said to him, clenching his teeth. 
" Why do you steal after me everywhere, like a thief? Or 
do you want to murder me ? Be off ! " and with a powerful 
hand he seized the old man by the collar and pushed him 
down the stairs. 

The old man returned to his lodging. His friend advised 
him to lodge a complaint, but the Postmaster reflected, 
waved his hand, and resolved to abstain from taking any 
further steps in the matter. Two days afterwards he left 
St. Petersburg and returned to his station to resume his 

" This is the third year," he concluded, " that I have 
been living without Dounia, and I have not heard a word 
about her. Whether she is alive or not — God only knows. 
So many things happen. She is not the first, nor yet 
the last, that a travelling scoundrel has seduced, kept 
for a little while, and then forsaken. There are many such 


young fools in St. Petersburg, to-day in satin and velvet, 

and to-morrow sweeping the streets along with the wretched 

hangers-on of the dram-shops. Sometimes, when I think 

that Dounia also may come to such an end, then, in spite of 

myself, I sin and wish her in her grave. . . ." 

Such was the story of my friend, the old Postmaster, 

a story more than once interrupted by tears, which he 

picturesquely wiped away with the skirt of his coat, like the 

zealous Terentitch in Dmitrieff's beautiful ballad. These 

tears were partly induced by the punch, of which he had 

drunk five glasses during the course of his narrative, but for 

all that, they produced a deep impression upon my heart. 

After taking leave of him, it was a long time before I could 

forget the old Postmaster, and for a long time I thought of 

poor Dounia. . . . 

Passing through the little town of a short time ago, 

I remembered my friend. I heard that the station, over 
which he ruled, had been abolished. To my question : " Is 
the old Postmaster still alive ? " nobody could give me 
a satisfactory reply. I resolved to pay a visit to the 
well-known place, and having hired horses, I set out for the 
village of N . 

It was in the autumn. Grey clouds covered the sky; 
a cold wind blew across the reaped fields, carrying along 
with it the red and yellow leaves from the trees that it en- 
countered. I arrived in the village at sunset, and stopped 
at the httle post-house. In the vestibule (where Dounia had 
once kissed me) a stout woman came out to meet me, and 
in answer to my questions replied, that the old Postmaster 
had been dead for about a year, that his house was 
occupied by a brewer, and that she was the brewer's wife. 
I began to regret my useless journey, and the seven roubles 
that I had spent in vain. 


" Of what did he die ? " I asked the brewer's wife. 

** Of drink, little father," replied she. 

"And where is he buried? " 

*' On the outskirts of the village, near his late wife." 

" Could somebody take me to his grave?" 

** To be sure ! Hi, Vanka,^ you have played with that cat 
long enough. Take this gentleman to the cemetery, and 
show him the Postmaster's grave." 

At these words a ragged lad, with red hair, and a cast in 
his eye, ran up to me and immediately began to lead 
the way towards the burial-ground. 

"Did you know the dead man?" I asked him on the 

*' Did I not know him ! He taught me how to cut blow- 
pipes. When he came out of the dram-shop (God rest his 
soul !) we used to run after him and call out : ' Grandfather ! 
grandfather ! some nuts ! ' and he used to throw nuts to us. 
He always used to play with us." 

" And do the travellers remember him ? " 

" There are very few travellers now ; the assessor passes 
this way sometimes, but he doesn't trouble himself about 
dead people. Last summer a lady passed through here, and 
she asked after the old Postmaster, and went to his grave." 

" What sort of a lady ? " I asked with curiosity. 

"A very beautiful lady," replied the lad. "She was in a 
carriage with six horses, and had along with her three little 
children, a nurse, and a little black dog ; and when they 
told her that the old Postmaster was dead, she began to cry, 
and said to the children : * Sit still, I will go to the cemetery.' 
I offered to show her the way. But the lady said : * I know 
the way.' And she gave me a five-copeck piece. . . . such 
a kind lady!" 

* One of the many diminutives of Ivan. 


poushkin's prose tales. 

We reached the cemetery, a dreary place, not inclosed in 
the least ; it was sown with wooden crosses, but there was 
not a single tree to throw a shade over it. Never in my life 
had I seen such a dismal cemetery. 

"This is the old Postmaster's grave," said the lad to me,^ 
leaping upon a heap of sand, in which was planted a blacky 
cross with a copper image. 

** And did the lady come here ?" asked I. 

" Yes," replied Vanka ; " I watched her from a distance 
She lay down here, and remained lying down for a lon( 
time. Then she went back to the village, sent for the pope 
gave him some money and drove off, after giving me a five 
copeck piece. . . . such an excellent lady ! " 

And I, too, gave the lad a five-copeck piece, and 
no longer regretted the journey nor the seven roubh 
that I had spent on it. 




THE last of the effects of the coffin-maker, Adrian 
Prokhoroff, were placed upon the hearse, and a 
couple of sorry-looking jades dragged themselves along for 
the fourth time from Basmannaia to Nikitskaia, whither the 
coffin-maker was removing with all his household. After 
locking up the shop, he posted upon the door a placard 
announcing that the house was to be let or sold, and then 
made his way on foot to his new abode. On approaching 
the little yellow house, which had so long captivated his 
imagination, and which at last he had bought for a consider- 
able sum, the old coffin-maker was astonished to find that 
his heart did not rejoice. When he crossed the unfamiliar 
threshold and found his new home in the greatest confusion, 
he sighed for his old hovel, where for eighteen years the 
strictest order had prevailed. He began to scold his two 
daughters and the servant for their slowness, and then set to 
work to help them himself. Order was soon established; 
the ark with the sacred images, the cupboard with the 
crockery, the table, the sofa, and the bed occupied the 
corners reserved for them in the back room ; in the kitchen 
and parlour were placed the articles comprising the stock- 
in-trade of the master — coffins of all colours and of all sizes, 
together with cupboards containing mourning hats, cloaks 
and torches. 

Over the door was placed a sign representing a fat Cupid 
with an inverted torch in his hand and bearing this inscrip- 


tion: ''Plain and coloured coffins sold and lined here; 
coffins also let out on hire, and old ones repaired." 

The girls retired to their bedroom ; Adrian made a tour 
of inspection of his quarters, and then sat down by the 
window and ordered the tea-urn to be prepared. 

The enlightened reader knows that Shakespeare and 
Walter Scott have both represented their grave-diggers as 
merry and facetious individuals, in order that the contrast 
might more forcibly strike our imagination. Out of respect 
for the truth, we cannot follow their example, and we are 
compelled to confess that the disposition of our coffin- 
maker was in perfect harmony with his gloomy occupation. 
Adrian Prokhoroff was usually gloomy and thoughtful. He 
rarely opened his mouth, except to scold his daughters 
when he found them standing idle and gazing out of the 
window at the passers by, or to demand for his wares an ex- 
orbitant price from those who had the misfortune — ^and 
sometimes the good fortune — to need them. Hence it Wc s 
that Adrian, sitting near the window and drinking his 
seventh cup of tea, was immersed as usual in melancholy 
reflections. He thought of the pouring rain which, just a 
week before, had commenced to beat down during the 
funeral of the retired brigadier. Many of the cloaks had 
shrunk in consequence of the downpour, and many of the 
hats had been put quite out of shape. He foresaw unavoid- 
able expenses, for his old stock of funeral dresses was in a 
pitiable condition. He hoped to compensate himself for 
his losses by the burial of old Trukhina, the shopkeeper's 
wife, who for more than a year had been upon the point 
of death. But Trukhina lay dying at Rasgouliai, and 
Prokhoroff was afraid that her heirs, in spite of their 
promise, would not take the trouble to send so far for 
him, but would make arrangements with the nearest under- 


These reflections were suddenly interrupted by three 
masonic knocks at the door. 

" Who is there ? " asked the cofiin-maker. 

The door opened, and a man, who at the first glance 
could be recognized as a German artisan, entered the room, 
and with a jovial air advanced towards the coffin-maker. 

" Pardon me, respected neighbour,'' said he in that 
Russian dialect which to this day we cannot hear without a 
smile : ** pardon me for disturbing you. ... I wished to 
make your acquaintance as soon as possible. I am a shoe- 
maker, my name is Gottlieb Schultz, and I live across the 
street, in that little house just facing your windows. To- 
moirow I am going to celebrate my silver wedding, and I 
have come to invite you and your daughters to dine with 

The invitation was cordially accepted. The coffin-maker 
asked the shoemaker to seat himself and take a cup of tea, 
and thanks to the open-hearted disposition of Gottlieb 
Schultz, they were soon engaged in friendly conversation. 

" How is business with you ? " asked Adrian. 

" Just so so," replied Schultz ; " I cannot complain. My 
wares are not like yours : the living can do without shoes, 
but the dead cannot do without coffins." 

" Very true," observed Adrian ; ** but if a living person 
hasn't anything to buy shoes with, you cannot find fault with 
him, he goes about barefooted ; but a dead beggar gets his 
coffin for nothing." 

In this manner the conversation was carried on between 
them for some time ; at last the shoemaker rose and took 
leave of the coffin-maker, renewing his invitation. 

The next day, exactly at twelve o'clock, the coffin-maker 
and his daughters issued from the doorway of their newly- 
purchased residence, and directed their steps towards the 
abode of their neighbour. I will not stop to describe the 

386 poushkin's prose tales. 

Russian caftan of Adrian Prokhoroff, nor the European 
toilettes of Akoulina and Daria, deviating in this respect 
from the usual custom of modern novelists. But I do not 
think it superfluous to o'bserve that they both had on the 
yellow cloaks and red shoes, which they were accustomed to 
don on solemn occasions only. 

The shoemaker's little dwelling was filled with guests, 
consisting chiefly of German artisans with their wives and 
foremen. Of the Russian officials there was present but 
one, Yourko the Finn, a watchman, who, in spite of his 
humble calling, was the special object of the host's atten- 
tion. For twenty-five years he had faithfully discharged the 
duties of postilion of Pogorelsky. The conflagration of 
1812, which destroyed the ancient capital, destroyed also his 
little yellow watch-house. But immediately after the expul- 
sion of the enemy, a new one appeared in its place, painted 
grey and with white Doric columns, and Yourko began again 
to pace to and fro before it, with his axe and grey coat of 
mail. He was known to the greater part of the Germans who 
lived near the Nikitskaia Gate, and some of them had even 
spent the night from Sunday to Monday beneath his roof. 

Adrian immediately made himself acquainted with him, 
as with a man whom, sooner or later, he might have need 
of, and when the guests took their places at the table, they 
sat down beside each other. Herr Schultz and his wife, and 
their daughter Lotchen, a young girl of seventeen, did the 
honours of the table and helped the cook to serve. The 
beer flowed in streams ; Yourko ate like four, and Adrian in 
no way yielded to him ; his daughters, however, stood upon 
their dignity. The conversation, which was carried on in 
German, gradually grew more and more boisterous. Sud- 
denly the host requested a moment's attention, and uncork- 
ing a sealed bottle, he said with a loud voice in Russian : 

** To the health of my good Louise 1 '' 


The champagne foamed. The host tenderly kissed the 
fresh face of his partner, and the guests drank noisily to the 
health of the good Louise. 

" To the health of my amiable guests ! " exclaimed the 
host, uncorking a second bottle; and the guests thanked 
him by draining their glasses once more. 

Then followed a succession of toasts. The health of each 
individual guest was dnmk; they drank to the health of 
Moscow and to quite a dozen little German towns; they 
drank to the health of all corporations in general and of 
each in particular ; th^y drank to the health of the masters 
and foremen. Adrian drank with enthusiasm and became 
so merry, that he proposed a facetious toast to himself. 
Suddenly one of the guests, a fat baker, raised his glass and 
exclaimed : 

" To the health of those for whom we work, our cus- 
tomers ! " 

This proposal, like all the others, was joyously and unani- 
mously received. The guests began to salute each other; 
the tailor bowed to the shoemaker, the shoemaker to the 
tailor, the baker to both, the whole company to the baker, 
and so on. In the midst of these mutual congratulations, 
Yourko exclaimed, turning to his neighbour : 

" Come, little father ! Drink to the health of your corpses !" 

Everybody laughed, but the coffin-maker considered him- 
self insulted, and frowned. Nobody noticed it, the guests 
continued to drink, and the bell had already rung for vespers 
when they rose from the table. 

The guests dispersed at a late hour, the greater part of 
them in a very merry mood. The fat baker and the book- 
binder, whose face seemed as if bound in red morocco, 
linked their arms in those of Yourko and conducted him 
back to his little watch-house, thus observing the proverb : 
" One good turn deserves another." 

388 poushkin's prose tales. 

The coffin-maker returned home drunk and angry. 

"Why is it," he exclaimed aloud, "why is it that my 
trade is not as honest as any other? Is a coffin-maker 
brother to the hangman ? Why did those heathens laugh ? 
Is a coffin-maker a buffoon? I wanted to invite them to 
my new dwelling and give them a feast, but now I'll do 
nothing of the kind. Instead of inviting them, I will invite 
those for whom I work : the orthodox dead." 

"What is the matter, little father?" said the servant, who 
was engaged at that moment in taking off his boots : " why 
do you talk such nonsense? Make the sign of the cross! 
Invite the dead to your new house ! What folly ! " 

*' Yes, by the Lord ! I will invite them," continued Adrian, 
" and that, too, for to-morrow ! ... Do me the favour, my 
benefactors, to come and feast with me to-morrow evening ; 
I will regale you with what God has sent me." 

With these words the coffin-maker turned into bed and 
soon began to snore. 

It was still dark when Adrian was awakened out of his 
sleep. Trukhina, the shopkeeper's wife, had died during 
the course of that very night, and a special messenger was 
sent off on horseback by her bailiff to carry the news to 
Adrian. The coffin-maker gave him ten copecks to buy 
brandy with, dressed himself as hastily as possible, took a 
droshky and set out for Rasgouliai. Before the door of the 
house in which the deceased lay, the police had already 
taken their stand, and the trades-people were passing back- 
wards and forwards, like ravens that smell a dead body. 
The deceased lay upon a table, yellow as wax, but not yet 
disfigured by decomposition. Around her stood her relatives, 
neighbours and domestic servants. All the windows were 
open ; tapers were burning ; and the priests were reading 
the prayers for the dead. Adrian went up to the nephew of 
Trukhina, a young shopman in a lashionable surtout, and 


informed him that the coffin, wax candles, pall, and the 
other funeral accessories would be immediately delivered 
with all possible exactitude. The heir thanked him in an 
absent-minded manner, saying that he would not bargain 
about the price, but would rely upon him acting in every- 
thing according to his conscience. The coffin-maker, in 
accordance with his usual custom, vowed that he would not 
charge him too much, exchanged significant glances with 
the bailiff, and then departed to commence operations. 

The whole day was spent in passing to and fro between 
Rasgouliai and the Nikitskaia Gate. Towards evening every- 
thing was finished, and he returned home on foot, after 
having dismissed his driver. It was a moonlight night. 
The coffin-maker reached the Nikitskaia Gate in safety. 
Near the Church of the Ascension he was hailed by our 
acquaintance Yourko, who, recognizing the coffin-maker, 
wished him good-night. It was late. The coffin-maker 
was just approaching his house, when suddenly he fancied 
he saw some one approach his gate, open the wicket, and 
disappear within. 

"What does that mean?" thought Adrian. "Who can 
be wanting me again ? Can it be a thief come to rob me ? 
Or have my foolish girls got lovers coming after them ? It 
means no good, I fear ! " 

And the coffin-maker thought of calling his friend Yourko 
to his assistance. But at that moment, another person 
approached the wicket and was about to enter, but seeing 
the master of the house hastening towards him, he stopped 
and took off his three-cornered hat. His face seemed 
familiar to Adrian, but in his hurry he had not been able to 
examine it closely. 

" You are favouring me with a visit," said Adrian, out of 
breath. " Walk in, I beg of you." 
;£ "Don't stand on ceremony, little father," replied the 

390 poushkin's prose tales. 

other, in a hollow voice ; " you go first, and show your 
guests the way." 

Adrian had no time to spend upon ceremony. The 
wicket was open; he ascended the steps followed by the 
other. Adrian thought he could hear people walking about 
in his rooms. 

" What the devil docs all this mean ! " he thought to him- 
self, and he hastened to enter. But the sight that met his 
eyes caused his legs to give way beneath him. 

The room was full of corpses. The moon, shining through 
the windows, lit up their yellow and blue faces, sunken 
mouths, dim, half-closed eyes, and protruding noses. 
Adrian, with horror, recognized in them people that he him 
self had buried, and in the guest who entered with him, the' 
brigadier who had been buried during the pouring rain. 
They all, men and women, surrounded the coffin-maker, 
with bowings and salutations, except one poor fellow lately 
buried gratis, who, conscious and ashamed of his rags, did 
not venture to approach, but meekly kept aloof in a corner. 
All the others were decently dressed : the female corpses 
in caps and ribbons, the officials in uniforms, but with 
their beards unshaven, the tradesmen in their holiday 

" You see, Prokhoroff," said the brigadier in the name of 
all the honourable company, " we have all risen in response 
to your invitation. Only those have stopped at home who 
were unable to come, who have crumbled to pieces and 
have nothing left but fleshless bones. But even of these 
there was one who hadn't the patience to remain behind 
so much did he want to come and see you. ..." 

At this moment a little skeleton pushed his way through 
the crowd and approached Adrian. His fleshless face 
smiled affably at the coffin-maker. Shreds of green and red 
cloth and rotten linen hung on him here and there as on a 



pole, and the bones of his feet rattled inside his big jack- 
boots, like pestles in mortars. 

" You do not recognize me, Prokhoroff," said the skeleton. 
" Don't you remember the retired sergeant of the Guards, 
Peter Petrovitch Kourilkin, the same to whom, in the year 
1799, you sold your first coffin, and that, too, of deal instead 
of oak?" 

With these words the corpse stretched out his bony arms 
towards him ; but Adrian, collecting all his strength, 
shrieked and pushed him from him. Peter Petrovitch 
staggered, fell, and crumbled all to pieces. Among the 
corpses arose a murmur of indignation ; all stood up for the 
honour of their companion, and they overwhelmed Adrian 
with such threats and imprecations, that the poor host, 
deafened by their shrieks and almost crushed to death, lost 
his presence of mind, fell upon the bones of the retired 
sergeant of the Guards, and swooned away. 

For some time the sun had been shining upon the bed on 
which lay the coffin-maker. At last he opened his eyes and 
saw before him the servant attending to the tea-urn. With 
horror, Adrian recalled all the incidents of the previous 
day. Trukhina, the brigadier, and the sergeant, Kourilkin, 
rose vaguely before his imagination. He waited in silence 
for the servant to open the conversation and inform him of 
the events of the night. 

" How you have slept, Httle father Adrian Prokhoro- 
vitch ! " said Aksinia, handing him his dressing-gown. 
"Your neighbour, the tailor, has been here, and the watchman 
also called to inform you that to-day is his name-day ; but 
you were so sound asleep, that we did not wish to wake you." 

" Did anyone come for me from the late Trukhina?" 

'* The late ? Is she dead, then ? " 

" What a fool you are ! Didn't you yourself help me 
yesterday to prepare the things for her funeral ? " 


** Have you taken leave of your senses, little father, or 
have you not yet recovered from the effects of yesterday's 
drinking-bout? What funeral was there yesterday? You 
spent the whole day feasting at the German's, and then 
came home drunk and threw yourself upon the bed, and 
have slept till this hour, when the bells have already rung 
for mass." 

" Really ! " said the coffin-maker, greatly relieved. 

" Yes, indeed," replied the servant. 

" Well, since that is the case, make the tea as quickly as 
possible and call my daughters.'* 




KIRDJALI was by birth a Bulgarian. Kirdjali, in the 
Turkish language, signifies a knight-errant, a bold 
fellow. His real name I do not know. 

Kirdjali with his acts of brigandage brought terror upon 
the whole of Moldavia. In order to give some idea of him, 
I will relate one of his exploits. One night he and the 
Arnout Mikhaelaki fell together upon a Bulgarian village. 
They set it on fire at both ends, and began to go from hut 
to hut. Kirdjali dispatched the inmates, and Mikhaelaki 
carried off the booty. Both cried: "Kirdjali! Kirdjali!" 
The whole village took to flight. 

When Alejfander Ipsilanti^ proclaimed the revolt and 
began to collect his army, Kirdjali brought to him some of 
his old companions. The real object of the revolt was but 
ill understood by them, but war presented an opportunity for 
getting rich at the expense of the Turks, and perhaps of the 
Moldavians, and that was object enough in their eyes. 

Alexander Ipsilanti was personally brave, but he did not 
possess the qualities necessary for the role which he had 
assumed with such ardour and such a want of caution. He 
did not know how to manage the people over whom he was 
obliged to exercise control. They had neither respect for 
him nor confidence in him. After the unfortunate battle, in 
which perished the flower of Greek youth, lordaki Olimbioti 

^ The chief of the Hetairists (Philike Hetairia), whose object was the 
liberation of Greece from the Turkish yoke. 


persuaded him to retire, and he himself took his place. 
Ipsilanti escaped to the borders of Austria, and thence sent 
his curses to the people whom he termed traitors, cowards 
and scoundrels. These cowards and scoundrels for the most 
part perished within the walls of the monastery of Seko, or 
on the banks of the Pnith, desperately defending themselves 
against an enemy ten times their number. 

Kirdjali found himself in the detachment of George 
Kantakuzin, of whom might be repeated the same that has 
been said of Ipsilanti. On the eve of the battle near 
Skoulana, Kantakuzin asked permission of the Russian 
authorities to enter our lines. The detachment remained 
without a leader, but Kirdjali, Saphianos, Kantagoni, and 
others stood in no need whatever of a leader. 

The battle near Skoulana does not seem to have been 
described by anybody in all its affecting reality. Imagine 
seven hundred men — Arnouts, Albanians, Greeks, Bul- 
garians and rabble of every kind — with no idea of military 
art, retreating in sight of fifteen thousand Turkish cavalry. 
This detachment hugged the bank of the Pruth, and placed 
in front of themselves two small cannons, found at Jassy, in 
the courtyard of the Governor, and from which salutes used 
to be fired on occasions of rejoicing. The Turks would 
have been glad to make use of their cartridges, but they 
dared not without the permission of the Russian authorities: 
the shots would infallibly have flown over to our shore. The 
commander of our lines (now deceased), although he had 
served forty years in the army, had never in his life heard 
the whistle of a bullet, but Heaven ordained that he should 
hear it then. Several of them whizzed past his ears. The 
old man became terribly angry, and abused the major of the 
Okhotsky infantry regiment, who happened to be in advance 
of the lines. The major, not knowing what to do, ran 
towards the river, beyond which some of the mounted insur- 


gents were caracoling about, and threatened them with his 
finger. The insurgents, seeing this, turned round and 
galloped off, with the whole Turkish detachment after them. 
The major, who had threatened them with his finger, was 
called Khortcheffsky. I do not know what became of 

The next day, however, the Turks attacked the Hetairists. 
Not daring to use bullets or cannon-balls, they resolved, 
contrary to their usual custom, to employ cold steel. The 
battle was a fiercely-contested one. Yataghans ^ were 
freely used. On the side of the Turks were seen lances, 
which had never been employed by them till then ; these 
lances were Russian : Nekrassovists fought in their ranks. 
The Hetairists, by permission of our Emperor, were allowed 
to cross the Pruth and take refuge within our lines. They 
began to cross over. Kantagoni and Saphianos remained 
last upon the Turkish bank. Kirdjali, wounded the evening 
before, was already lying within our lines. Saphianos was 
killed. Kantagoni, a very stout man, was wounded in the 
stomach by a lance. With one hand he raised his sword, 
with the other he seized the hostile lance, thrust it further 
into himself, and in that manner was able to reach his 
murderer with his sword, when both fell together. 

All was over. The Turks remained victorious. Mol- 
davia was swept clear of insurrectionary bands. About six 
hundred Arnouts were dispersed throughout Bessarabia; 
and though not knowing how to support themselves, they 
were yet grateful to Russia for her protection. They led an 
idle life, but not a licentious one. They could always be 
seen in the coffee-houses of half Turkish Bessarabia, with 
long pipes in their mouths, sipping coffee grounds out of 
small cups. Their figured jackets and red pointed slippers 

* Long Turkish daggers. 

398 poushkin's prose tales. 

were already beginning to wear out, but their tufted skull- 
caps were still worn on the side of the head, and yataghans 
and pistols still protruded from under their broad sashes. 
Nobody complained of them. It was impossible to 
imagine that these poor, peaceably-disposed men were the 
notorious insurgents of Moldavia, the companions of the 
ferocious Kirdjali, and that he himself was among them. 

The Pasha in command at Jassy became informed of 
this, and in virtue of treaty stipulations, requested the 
Russian authorities to deliver up the brigand. 

The police instituted a search. They discovered that 
Kirdjali was really in Kishineff. They captured him in the 
house of a fugitive monk in the evening, when he was 
having supper, sitting in the dark with seven companions. 

Kirdjali was placed under arrest. He did not try to 
conceal the truth ; he acknowledged that he was Kirdjali. 

" But," he added, " since I crossed the Pruth, I have not 
touched a hair of other people's property, nor imposed 
upon even a gipsy. To the Turks, to the Moldavians and 
to the Wallachians I am undoubtedly a brigand, but to the 
Russians I am a guest. When Saphianos, having fired off 
all his cartridges, came over into these lines, collecting 
from the wounded, for the last discharge, buttons, nails, 
watch-chains and the knobs of yataghans, I gave him twenty 
beshliks, and was left without money. God knows that I, 
Kirdjali, lived by alms. Why then do the Russians now 
deliver me into the hands of my enemies ? " 

After that, Kirdjali was silent, and tranquilly awaited the 
decision that was to determine his fate. He did not wait 
long. The authorities, not being bound to look upon 
brigands from their romantic side, and being convinced of 
the justice of the demand, ordered Kirdjali to be sent to 

A man of heart and intellect, at that time a young and 


unknown official, but now occupying an important post, 
vividly described to me his departure. 

At the gate of the prison stood a karoutsa. . . . Perhaps 
you do not know what a karoutsa is. It is a low, wicker 
vehicle, to which, not very long since, used generally to be 
yoked six or eight sorry jades. A Moldavian, with a 
moustache and a sheepskin cap, sitting astride one of them, 
incessantly shouted and cracked his whip, and his wretched 
animals ran on at a fairly sharp trot. If one of them began 
to slacken its pace, he unharnessed it with terrible oaths 
and left it upon the road, little caring what might be its fate. 
On the return journey he was sure to find it in the same 
place, quietly grazing upon the green steppe. It not un- 
frequently happened that a traveller, starting from one 
station with eight horses, arrived at the next with a pair 
only. It used to be so about fifteen years ago. Nowadays 
in Russianized Bessarabia they have adopted Russian 
harness and Russian telegas. 

Such a karoutsa stood at the gate of the prison in the 
year 1821, towards the end of the month of September. 
Jewesses in loose sleeves and slippers down at heel, Arnouts 
in their ragged and picturesque attire, well-proportioned 
Moldavian women with black-eyed children in their arms, 
surrounded the karoutsa. The men preserved silence, the 
women were eagerly expecting something. 

The gate opened, and several police officers stepped out 
into the street ; behind them came two soldiers leading the 
fettered Kirdjali. 

He seemed about thirty years of age. The features of 
his swarthy face were regular and harsh. He was tall, 
broad-shouldered, and seemed endowed with unusual 
physical strength. A variegated turban covered the side of 
his head, and a broad sash encircled his slender waist. A 
dolman of thick; darl?:-blue cloth, the broad folds of his 

400 poushkin's prose tales. 

shiit falling below the knee, and handsome slippers com- 
posed the remainder of his costume. His look was proud 
and calm. . . . 

One of the officials, a red-faced old man in a threadbare 
uniform, three buttons of which were dangling down, with 
a pair of pewter spectacles pinching the purple knob that 
served him for a nose, unrolled a paper and, in a snuffling 
tone, began to read in the Moldavian tongue. From time 
to time he glanced haughtily at the fettered Kirdjali, to 
whom apparently the paper referred. Kirdjali listened to 
him attentively. The official finished his reading, folded up 
the paper and shouted sternly at the people, ordering them 
to give way and the karoutsa to be driven up. Then 
Kirdjali turned to him and said a few words to him in 
Moldavian ; his voice trembled, his countenance changed, 
he burst into tears and fell at the feet of the police official, 
clanking his fetters. The police official, terrified, started 
back ; the soldiers were about to raise Kirdjali, but he rose 
up himself, gathered up his chains, stepped into the karoutsa 
and cried : *' Drive on ! " A gendarme took a seat beside 
him, the Moldavian cracked his whip, and the karoutsa 
rolled away. 

" What did Kirdjali say to you ? " asked the young official 
of the police officer. 

" He asked me," replied the police officer, smiling, '' to 
look after his wife and child, who lived not far from Kilia, 
in a Bulgarian village : he is afraid that they may suffer 
through him. The mob is so stupid ! " 

The young official's story affected me deeply. I was 
sorry for poor Kirdjali. For a long time I knew nothing of 
his fate. Some years later I met the young official. We 
began to talk about the past. 

" What about your friend Kirdjali ? " I asked. " Do you 
know what became of him ? " 


** To be sure I do," replied he, and he related to me the 

Kirdjali, having been taken to Jassy, was brought before 
the Pasha, who condemned him to be impaled. The 
execution was deferred till some holiday. In the meantime 
he was confined in jail. 

The prisoner was guarded by seven Turks (commoa 
people, and in their hearts as much brigands as Kirdjali 
himself) ; they respected him and, like all Orientals, listened 
with avidity to his strange stories. 

Between the guards and the prisoner an intimate ac- 
quaintance sprang up. One day Kirdjali said to them : 
" Brothers ! my hour is near. Nobody can escape his fate. 
I shall soon take leave of you. I should like to leave you 
something in remembrance of me." 

The Turks pricked up their ears. 

"Brothers," continued Kirdjali, '* three years ago, when I 
was engaged in plundering along with the late Mikhaelaki, 
we buried on the steppes, not from Jassy, a kettle filled 
with money, fvidently, neither I nor he will make use of 
the hoard. Be it so ; take it for yourselves and divide it in 
a friendly manner." 

The Turks almost took leave of their senses. The ques- 
tion was, how were they to find the blessed spot ? They 
thought and thought and finally resolved that Kirdjali 
himself should conduct them to the place. 

Night came on. The Turks removed the irons from the 
feet of the prisoner, tied his hands with a rope, and, leaving 
the town, set out with him for the steppe. 

Kirdjali led them, keeping on in one direction from one 
mound to another. They walked on for a long time. At 
last Kirdjali stopped near a broad stone, measured twelve 
paces towards the south, stamped and said : *' Here." 

The Turks began to make their arrangements. Four of 


them took out their yataghans and commenced digging the 
earth. Three remained on guard. Kirdjali sat down upon 
the stone and watched them at their work. 

'* Well, how much longer are you going to be ? " he 
asked ; ** haven't you come to it? " 

" Not yet," replied the Turks, and they worked away with 
such ardour, that the perspiration rolled from them like hail 

Kirdjali began to show signs of impatience. 

" What people ! " he exclaimed : " they do not even knov 
how to dig decently. I should have finished the whole 
business in a couple of minutes. Children ! untie my hands 
and give me a yataghan." 

The Turks reflected and began to take counsel together. 
"What harm would there be?" reasoned they. *'Let us 
untie his hands and give him a yataghan. He is only one, 
we are seven." 

And the Turks untied his hands and gave him a yataghan. 

At last Kirdjali was free and armed. What must he have 
felt at that moment ! ... He began digging quickly, the 
guard helping him. . . . Suddenly he plunged his yataghan 
into one of them, and, leaving the blade in his breast, he 
snatched from his belt a couple of pistols. 

The remaining six, seeing Kirdjali armed with two 
pistols, ran off. 

Kirdjali is now carrying on the profession of brigand near 
Jassy. Not long ago he wrote to the Governor, demanding 
from him five thousand levs^ and threatening, in the event 
of the money not being paid, to set fire to Jassy and to 
reach the Governor himself. The five thousand levs were 
handed over to him ! 

Such is Kirdjali ! 

^ A Uv is worth about ten -pence, 





CHARSKY was one of the native-born inhabitants of 
St. Petersburg. He was not yet thirty years of age ; 
he was not married; the service did not oppress him too 
heavily. His late uncle, having been a vice-governor in the 
good old times, had left him a respectable estate. His life 
was a very agreeable one, but he had the misfortune to 
write and print verses. In the journals he was called 
**poet," and in the ante-rooms "author." 

In spite of the great privileges which verse-makers enjoy 
(we must confess that, except the right of using the accusa- 
tive instead of the genitive, and other so-called poetical 
licenses of a similar kind, we fail to see what are the par- 
ticular privileges of Russian poets), in spite of their every 
possible privilege, these persons are compelled to endure a 
great deal of unpleasantness. The bitterest misfortune of 
all, the most intolerable for the poet, is the appellation with 
which he is branded, and which will always cling to him. 
The public look upon him as their own property ; in their 
opinion, he was created for their especial benefit and 
pleasure. Should he return from the country, the first 
person who meets him accosts him with : 

" Haven't you brought anything new for us ? " 
Should the derangement of his affairs, or the illness of 
some being dear to him, cause him to become lost in 


thoughtful reflection, immediately a trite smile accompanies 
the trite exclamation : 

" No doubt he is composing something ! " 

Should he happen to fall in love, his beauty purchases an 
album at the English warehouse, and expects an elegy. 

Should he call upon a man whom he hardly knows, to 
talk about serious matters of business, the latter quickly 
calls his son and compels him to read some of the verses of 
so-and-so, and the lad regales the poet with some of his 
lame productions. And these are but the flowers of the 
calling ; what then must be the fruits ! Charsky acknow- 
ledged that the compliments, the questions, the albums, 
and the little boys bored him to such an extent, that he was 
constantly compelled to restrain himself from committing 
some act of rudeness. 

Charsky used every possible endeavour to rid himself of 
the intolerable appellation. He avoided the society of 
his literary brethren, and preferred to them the men of the 
world, even the most shallow-minded : but that did not 
help him. His conversation was of the most commonplace 
character, and never turned upon literature. In his dress 
he always observed the very latest fashion, with the timidity 
and superstition of a young Moscovite arriving in St. Peters- 
burg for the first time in his life. In his study, furnished 
like a lady's bedroom, nothing recalled the writer ; no books 
littered the table ; the divan was not stained with ink ; there 
was none of that disorder which denotes the presence of the 
Muse and the absence of broom and brush. Charsky was 
in despair if any of his worldly friends found him with a pen 
in his hand. It is difficult to believe to what trifles a man, 
otherwise endowed with talent and soul, can descend. At 
one time he pretended to be a passionate lover of horses, at 
another a desperate gambler, and at another a refined 
gourmet, although he was never able to distinguish the 


mountain breed from the Arab, could never remember the 
trump cards, and in secret preferred a baked potato to all 
the inventions of the French cuisine. He led a life of 
unbounded pleasure, was seen at all the balls, gormandized 
at all the diplomatic dinners, and appeared at all the soirees 
as inevitably as the Rezan ices. For all that, he was a poet, 
and his passion was invincible. When he found the " silly 
fit" (thus he called the inspiration) coming upon him, 
Charsky would shut himself up in his study, and write from 
morning till late into the night. He confessed to his 
genuine friends that only then did he know what real happi- 
ness was. The rest of his time he strolled about, dissembled, 
and was assailed at every step by the eternal question : 

'* Haven't you written anything new ? " 

One morning, Charsky felt that happy disposition of soul, 
when the illusions are represented in their brightest colours, 
when vivid, unexpected words present themselves for the 
incarnation of one's visions, when verses flow easily from 
the pen, and sonorous rhythms fly to meet harmonious 
thoughts. Charsky was mentally plunged into a sweet 
oblivion . . . and the world, and the trifles of the world, 
and his own particular whims no longer existed for him. 
He was writing verses. 

Suddenly the door of his study creaked, and the unknown 
head of a man appeared. Charsky gave a sudden start and 

"Who is there?" he asked with vexation, inwardly curs- 
ing his servants, who were never in the ante-room when they 
were wanted. 

The unknown entered. He was of a tall, spare figure, 
and appeared to be about thirty years of age. The features of 
his swarthy face were very expressive : his pale, lofty fore- 
head, shaded by dark locks of hair, his black, sparkling eyes, 
aquiline nose, and thick beard surrounding his sunken, 


tawny cheeks, indicated him to be a foreigner. He was at- 
tired in a black dress-coat, already whitened at the seams, 
and summer trousers (although the season was well into the 
autumn) ; under his tattered black cravat, upon a yellowish 
shirt-front, glittered a false diamond ; his shaggy hat seemed 
to have seen rain and bad weather. Meeting such a man in 
a wood, you would have taken him for a robber ; in society 
— for a political conspirator ; in an ante-room — for a charla- 
tan, a seller of elixirs and arsenic. 

" What do you want ? " Charsky asked him in French. 

"Signor," replied the foreigner in Italian, with several 
profound bows : ^^ Lei vogiia perdonar mi, si . . ." (PWse 
pardon me, if . .) 

Charsky did not offer him a chair, and he rose himself: 
the conversation was continued in Italian. 

" I am a Neapolitan artist," said the unknown : " circum- 
stances compelled me to leave my native land ; I have come 
to Russia, trusting to my talent." 

Charsky thought that the Italian was preparing t« give some 
violoncello concerts and was disposing of his tickets from house 
to house. He was just about to give him twenty-five roubles 
in order to get rid of him as quickly as possible, but the un- 
known added : 

" I hope, signor, that you will give a friendly support 
to your confrere, and introduce me into the houses to which 
you have access." 

It was impossible to offer a greater affront to Charsky's 
vanity. He glanced haughtily at the individual who called 
himself his confrere- 

** Allow me to ask, what are you, and for whom do you take 
me ? " he said, with difficulty restraining his indignation. 

The Neapolitan observed his vexation. 

** Signor," he repUed, stammering : " Ho creduto . . . ho 
seniito . ^ . la vostra Eccelenza . , , mi ferdonera . . ." (I 


believed ... I felt . . . Your Excellency . . . will par- 
don me. . . .) 

" What do you want ? " repeated Charsky drily. 

" I have heard a great deal of your wonderful talent ; 
I am sure that the gentlemen of this place esteem it an 
honour to extend every possible protection to such an 
excellent poet," replied the Italian : " and that is why 
I have ventured to present myself to you. . . ." 

" You are mistaken, signor," interrupted Charsky. " The 
caUing of poet does not exist among us. Our poets do not 
solicit the protection of gentlemen ; our poets are gentle- 
men themselves, and if our Maecenases (devil take them !) 
do not know that, so much the worse for them. Among us 
there are no ragged abb^s, whom a musician would take out 
of the streets to compose a libretto. Among us, poets 
do not go on foot from house to house, begging for help. 
Moreover, they must have been joking, when they told you 
that I was a great poet. It is true that I once wrote some 
wretched epigrams, but thank God, I haven't anything 
in common with 7iiessieurs les poetes, and do not wish to 

The poor Italian became confused. He looked around 
him. The pictures, marble statues, bronzes, and the costly 
baubles on Gothic what-nots, struck him. He understood 
that between the haughty dandy, standing before him in a 
tufted brocaded cap, gold-embroidered nankeen dressing- 
gown and Turkish sash, — and himself, a poor wandering 
artist, in tattered cravat and shabby dress-coat — there was 
nothing in common. He stammered out some unintelligible 
excuses, bowed, and wished to retire. His pitiable appear- 
ance touched Charsky, who, in spite of the defects in 
his character, had a good and noble heart. He felt 
ashamed of his irritated vanity. 

** Where are you going ? " he said to the Italian. " Wait 

410 poushkin's prose tales. 

... I was compelled to decline an unmerited title and con- 
fess to you that I was not a poet. Now let us speak about 
your business. I am ready to serve you, if it be in my 
power to do so. Are you a musician ? " 

" No, Eccelenza," replied the Italian ; " I am a poor 
improvisators " 

*'An improvisatore ! " cried Charsky, feeling all the 
cruelty of his reception. "Why didn't you say sooner 
that you were an improvisatore ? " 

And Charsky grasped his hand with a feeling of sincere ' 

His friendly manner encouraged the ItaHan. He spoke 
haively of his plans. His exterior was not deceptive. He 
was in need of money, and he hoped somehow in Russia to 
improve his domestic circumstances. Charsky listened 
to him with attention. 

" I hope," said he to the poor artist, " that you will have 
success; society here has never heard an improvisatore. 
Curiosity will be awakened. It is true that the Italian lan- 
guage is not in use among us ; you will not be understood, 
but that will be no great misfortune ; the chief thing is that 
you should be in the fashion." 

" But if nobody among you understands Italian," said 
the improvisatore, becoming thoughtful, " who will come to 
hear me ? " 

" Have no fear about that — they will come : some out of 
curiosity, others to pass away the evening somehow or 
other, others to show that they understand Italian. I repeat, 
it is only necessary that you should be in the fashion, and 
you will be in the fashion — I give you my hand upon it." 

Charsky dismissed the improvisatore very cordially, after 
having taken his address, and the same evening he set 
to work to do what he could for him, 



THE next day, in the dark and dirty corridor of a 
tavern, Charsky discovered the number 35. He 
stopped at the door and knocked. It was opened by the 
Italian of the day before. 

" Victory ! " said Charsky to him : ** your affairs are in a 

good way. The Princess N , offers you her salon ; 

yesterday, at the rout, I succeeded in enlisting the half 
of St. Petersburg ; get your tickets and announcements 
printed. If I cannot guarantee a triumph for you, I'll 
answer for it that you will at least be a gainer in 
pocket. . . ." 

*' And that is the chief thing," cried the Italian, manifest- 
ing his delight in a series of gestures that were characteris- 
tic of his southern origin. " I knew that you would help 
me. Corpo di Baccol You are a poet like myself, and 
there is no denying that poets are excellent fellows ! How 
can I show my gratitude to you ? Stop. . . . Would you 
like to hear an improvisation ? " 

** An improvisation ! . . . Can you then do without 
public, without music, and without sounds of applause ? " 

" And where could I find a better public ? You are 
a poet : you understand me better than they, and your 
quiet approbation will be dearer to me than whole storms of 
applause. ... Sit down somewhere and give me a theme." 

"Here is your theme, then," said Charsky to him: ''the 
poet himself should choose the subject of his songs ; the crowd 
has not the right to direct his inspirations,^^ 


The eyes of the Italian sparkled : he tried a few chords, 
raised his head proudly, and passionate verses — the expres- 
sion of instantaneous sentiment — fell in cadence from his 
lips. . . . 

The Italian ceased. . . . Charsky remained silent, filled 
with delight and astonishment. 

" Well ? " asked the improvisatore. 

Charsky seized his hand and pressed it firmly. 

" Well ? " asked the improvisatore. 

" Wonderful ! " replied the poet. " The idea of another' 
has scarcely reached your ears, and already it has become 
your own, as if you had nursed, fondled and developed it 
for a long time. And so for you there exists neither difficulty 
nor discouragement, nor that uneasiness which precedes in- 
spiration ? Wonderful, wonderful ! " 

The improvisatore replied : ** Each talent is inexplicable. 
How does the sculptor see, in a block of Carrara marble, 
the hidden Jupiter, and how does he bring it to light with 
hammer and chisel by chipping off its envelope ? Why does 
the idea issue from the poet's head already equipped with 
four rhymes, and arranged in measured and harmonious 
feet? Nobody, except the improvisatore himself, can under- 
stand that rapid impression, that narrow link between in- 
spiration proper and a strange exterior will ; I myself would 
try in vain to explain it. But ... I must think of my first 
evening. What do you think ? What price could I charge 
for the tickets, so that the public may not be too exacting, 
and so that, at the same time, I may not be out of pocket 
myself? They say that La Signora Catalani ^ took twenty- 
five roubles. That is a good price. ..." 

It was very disagreeable to Charsky to fall suddenly from 

^ A celebrated Italian vocalist, whose singing created an unprecedented 
sensation in the principal European capitals during the first quarter of 
the present century. 


the heights of poesy down to the bookkeeper's desk, but he 
understood very well the necessities of this world, and he 
assisted the Italian in his mercantile calculations. The im- 
provisatore, during this part of the business, exhibited such 
savage greed, such an artless love of gain, that he disgusted 
Charsky, who hastened to take leave of him, so that he 
might not lose altogether the feeling of ecstasy awakened 
within him by the brilliant improvisation. The Italian, 
absorbed in his calculations, did not observe this change, 
and he conducted Charsky into the corridor and out to the 
steps, with profound bows and assurances of eternal gratitude. 




THE salon of Princess N had been placed at the 
disposal of the improvisatore ; a platform had been 
erected, and the chairs were arranged in twelve rows. On 
the appointed day, at seven o'clock in the evening, the room 
was illuminated ; at the door, before a small table, to sell 
and receive tickets, sat a long-nosed old woman, in a 
grey cap with broken feathers, and with rings on all her 
fingers. Near the steps stood gendarmes. 

The public began to assemble. Charsky wa3 one of the 
first to airive. He had contributed greatly to the success 
of the representation, and wished to see the improvisatore, 
in order to know if he was satisfied with everything. He 
found the Italian in a side room, observing his watch with 
impatience. The improvisatore was attired in a theatrical 
costume. He was dressed in black from head to foot. The 
lace collar of his shirt was thrown back ; his naked neck, by 
its strange whiteness, offered a striking contrast to his thick 
black beard ; his hair was brought forward, and over- 
shadowed his forehead and eyebrows. 

All this was not very gratifying to Charsky, who did not 
care to see a poet in the dress of a wandering juggler. After 
a short conversation, he returned to the salon, which was 
becoming more and more crowded. Soon all the rows of 
seats were occupied by brilliantly-dressed ladies : the gentle- 
men stood crowded round the sides of the platform, along 
the walls, and behind the chairs at the back ; the musicians, 
with their music-stands, occupied two sides of the plat- 


form. In the middle, upon a table, stood a porcelain 

The audience was a large one. Everybody awaited the 
commencement with impatience. At last, at half-past seven 
o'clock, the musicians made a stir, prepared their bows, and 
played the overture from " Tancredi." All took their places 
and became silent. The last sounds of the overture ceased. 
. . . The improvisatore, welcomed by the deafening applause 
which rose from every side, advanced with profound bows 
to the very edge of the platform. 

Charsky waited with uneasiness to see what would be the 
first impression produced, but he perceived that the costume, 
which had seemed to him so unbecoming, did not produce the 
same effect upon the audience ; even Charsky himself found 
nothing ridiculous in the Italian, when he saw him upon the 
platform, with his pale face brightly illuminated by a multi- 
tude of lamps and candles. The applause subsided ; the 
sound of voices ceased . . . 

The Italian, expressing himself in bad French, requested 
the gentlemen present to indicate some themes, by writing 
them upon separate pieces of paper. At this unexpected 
invitation, all looked at one another in silence, and nobody 
made reply. The Italian, after waiting a little while, repeated 
his request in a timid and humble voice. Charsky was 
standing right under the platform ; a feeling of uneasiness 
took possession of him; he had a presentiment that the 
business would not be able to go on without him, and that 
he would be compelled to write his theme. Indeed, several 
ladies turned their faces towards him and began to pronounce 
his name, at first in a low tone, then louder and louder. 
Hearing his name, the improvisatore sought him with his 
eyes, and perceiving him at his feet, he handed him a pencil 
and a piece of paper with a friendly smile. To play a role 
in this comedy seemed very disagreeable to Charsky, but 


there was no help for it : he took the pencil and paper from 
the hands of the Italian and wrote some words. The Italian, 
taking the vase from the table, descended from the platform 
and presented it to Charsky, who deposited within it his 
theme. His example produced an effect : two journalists, 
in their quality as literary men, considered it incumbent 
upon them to write each his theme; the secretary of the 
Neapolitan embassy, and a young man recently returned 
from a journey to Florence, placed in the urn their folded 
papers. At last, a very plain-looking girl, at the command 
of her mother, with tears in her eyes, wrote a few lines in 
Italian and, blushing to the ears, gave them to the improvi- 
satore, the ladies in the meantime regarding her in silence, 
with a scarcely perceptible smile. Returning to the platform, 
the improvisatore placed the urn upon the table, and began 
to take out the papers one after the other, reading each 
aloud : 

*''' La famiglia del Cenci. . . . L ultimo giorno di Pompeia 
, . . Cleopatra eisuoi amanti. . . . La primavera veduta da 
una prigione. . . , LI trionfo di Tasso^ 

*'What does the honourable company command?" asked 
the Italian humbly. " Will it indicate itself one of the 
subjects proposed, or let the matter be decided by lot ? " 

" By lot ! " said a voice in the crowd. ..." By lot, by 
lot ! " repeated the audience. 

The improvisatore again descended from the platform, 
holding the urn in his hands, and casting an imploring 
glance along the first row of chairs, asked : 

" Who will be kind enough to draw out the theme ? " 

Not one of the brilliant ladies, who were sitting there, 
stirred. The improvisatore, not accustomed to Northern in- 
difference, seemed greatly disconcerted. , . . Suddenly he 
perceived on one side of the room a small white-gloved 
hand held up : he turned quickly and advanced towards a 


tall young beauty, seated at the end of the second row. 
^e rose without the slightest confusion, and, with the 
greatest simplicity in the world, plunged her aristocratic 
hand into the urn and drew out a roll of paper. 

" Will you please unfold it and read," said the improvisa- 
tore to her. 

The young lady unrolled the paper and read aloud : 

" Cleopatra e i suoi amantt." 

These words were uttered in a gentle voice, but such 
a deep silence reigned in the room, that everybody heard 
them. The improvisatore bowed profoundly to the young 
lady, with an air of the deepest gratitude, and returned 
to his platform. 

" Gentlemen," said he, turning to the audience: " the lot 
has indicated as the subject of improvisation : * Cleopatra 
and her lovers.' I humbly request the person who has 
chosen this theme, to explain to me his idea : what lovers is 
it here a question of, perchh la grande regina haveva 

At these words, several gentlemen burst out laughing. 
The improvisatore became somewhat confused. 

" I should Hke to know," he continued, " to what histori- 
cal feature does the person, who has chosen this theme, 
allude ? . . . I should feel very grateful if he would kindly 

Nobody hastened to reply. Several ladies directed their 
glances towards the plain-looking girl who had written 
a theme at the command of her mother. The poor girl ob- 
served this hostile attention, and became so confused, that 
the tears came into her eyes. . . . Charsky could not 
endure this, and turning to the improvisatore, he said to him 
in Italian : 

"It was I who proposed the theme. I had in view a pas- 
sage in Aurelius Victor, who speaks as if Cleopatra used to 

41 8 poushkin's prose tales. 

name death as the price of her love, and yet there 
were found adorers whom such a condition neither 
frightened nor repelled. It seems to me, however, that 
the subject is somewhat difficult. . . . Could you not 
choose another ? " 

But the improvisatore already felt the approach of 
the god. ... He gave a sign to the musicians to play. 
His face became terribly pale; he trembled as if in a 
fever ; his eyes sparkled with a strange fire ; he raised with 
his hand his dark hair, wiped with his handkerchief his 
lofty forehead, covered with beads of perspiration. . . . 
then suddenly stepped forward and folded his arms across 
his breast. . . . the musicians ceased. ... the improvi- 
sation began : 

'* The palace glitters ; the songs of the choir 
Echo the sounds of the flute and lyre ; 
With voice and glance the stately Queen 
Gives animation to the festive scene, 
And eyes are turned to her throne above. 
And hearts beat wildly with ardent love. 
But suddenly that brow so proud 
Is shadowed with a gloomy cloud, 
And slowly on her heaving breast, 
Her pensive head sinks down to rest. 
The music ceases, hushed is each breath, 
Upon the feast falls the lull of death ; " ^ 

The story is incomplete in the originaL — Translator, 






AMONG the number of young men sent abroad by 
Peter the Great for the acquisition of knowledge in- 
dispensable to a country in a state of transition, was his 
godson, the negro, Ibrahim. After being educated in the 
Military School at Paris, which he left with the rank 
of Captain of Artillery, he distinguished himself in the 
Spanish War of Succession, but having been severely 
wounded, he returned to Paris. The Emperor, in the 
midst of his extensive labours, never ceased to inquire after 
his favourite, and he always received flattering accounts of 
his progress and conduct. Peter was exceedingly pleased 
with him, and more than once requested him to return 
to Russia, but Ibrahim was in no hurry. He excused him- 
self under various pretexts : now it was his wound, now it 
was a wish to complete his education, now a want of money ; 
and Peter indulgently complied with his wishes, begged 
him to take care of his health, thanked him for his zeal in 
the pursuit of knowledge, and although extremely parsimo- 
nious in his own expenses, he did not spare his exchequer 
when his favourite was concerned, and the ducats were 

'■ Although this story was unfortunately left unfinished, it has been 
included in this collection, as, apart from its intrinsic merit, it throws 
an interesting light upon the history of Poushkin's African ancestor.— 
The real name of the hero was Hannibal.— Translator. 


generally accompanied by fatherly advice and words of 

According to the testimony of all historical accounts, 
nothing could be compared with the frivolity, folly and 
luxury of the French of that period. The last years of the 
reign of Louis the Fourteenth, remarkable for the strict 
piety, gravity, and decorum of the court, had left no traces 
behind. The Duke of Orleans, uniting many brilliant 
qualities with vices of every kind, unfortunately did not 
possess the slightest shadow of hypocrisy. The orgies 
of the Palais Royal were no secret in Paris ; the example 
was infectious. At that time Law^ appeared upon the 
scene; greed for money was united to the thirst for 
pleasure and dissipation ; estates were squandered, morals 
perished. Frenchmen laughed and calculated, and the 
kingdom fell to pieces to the music of satirical vaudevilles. 

In the meantime society presented a most remarkable 
picture. Culture and the desire for amusement brought all 
ranks together. Wealth, amiability, renown, talent, even 
eccentricity — everything that satisfied curiosity or promised 
amusement, was received with the same indulgence. 
Literature, learning and philosophy forsook their quiet 
studies and appeared in the circles of the great world 
to render homage to fashion and to obey its decrees. 
Women reigned, but no longer demanded adoration. 
Superficial politeness was substituted for the profound 
respect formerly shown to them. The pranks of the Duke 
de Richelieu, the Alcibiades of modern Athens, belong to 
history, and give an idea of the morals of that period. 

'* Temps fortune, marqu^ par la licence, 
Oil la folic, agitant son grelot, 
D'un pied leger parcourt toute la France, 

* John Law, the famous projector of financial schemes, 


Ou nul mortel ne daigne etre devot, 
Ou Ton fait tout excepte penitence. " 

The appearance of Ibrahim, his bearing, culture and 
natural intelligence excited general attention in Paris. All 
the ladies were anxious to see " le nbgre du Czar " at their 
houses, and vied with each other in their attentions towards 
him. The Regent invited him more than once to his merry 
evening parties ; he assisted at the suppers animated by the 
youth of Arouet,^ the old age of Chaulieu, and the conver- 
sations of Montesquieu and Fontenelle. He did not miss a 
single ball, fete or first representation, and he gave himself 
up to the general whirl with all the ardour of his years and 
nature. But the thought of exchanging these delights, 
these brilliant amusements for the simpHcity of the Peters- 
burg Court was not the only thing that dismayed Ibrahim ; 
other and stronger ties bound him to Paris. The young 
African was in love. 

The Countess L , although no longer in the first 

bloom of youth, was still renowned for her beauty. On 
leaving the convent at the age of seventeen, she was married 
to a man whom she had not succeeded in loving, and who 
later on did not take the trouble to gain her love. Report 
assigned several lovers to her, but thanks to the indulgent 
views entertained by the world, she enjoyed a good reputa- 
tion, for nobody was able to reproach her with any ridiculous 
or scandalous adventure. Her house was one of the most 
fashionable, and the best Parisian society made it their 
rendezvous. Ibrahim was introduced to her by young 
Merville, who was generally looked upon as her latest lover, — 
and who did all in his power to obtain credit for the report. 

The Countess received Ibrahim politely, but without any 
particular attention : this made him feel flattered. Generally 

1 Voltaire. 

424 poushkin's prose tales. 

the young negro was regarded in the light of a curiosity ; 
people used to surround him and overwhelm him with com- 
pliments and questions — and this curiosity, although con- 
cealed by a show of graciousness, offended his vanity. The 
delightful attention of women, almost the sole aim of our 
exertions, not only afforded him no pleasure, but even filled 
him with bitterness and indignation. He felt that he was 
for them a kind of rare beast, a peculiar creature, acci- 
dentally brought into the world, but having with it nothing 
in common. He even envied people who remained 
unnoticed, and considered them fortunate in their insigni- 

The thought, that nature had not created him for the 
inspiring of a passion, emancipated him from self-assertion 
and vain pretensions, and added a rare charm to his 
behaviour towards women. His conversation was simple 
and dignified ; he found great favour in the eyes of the 

Countess L , who had grown tired of the pronounced 

jests and pointed insinuations of French wit. Ibrahim 
frequently visited her. Little by little she became accus- 
tomed to the young negro's appearance, and even began to 
find something agreeable in that curly head, that stood out 
so black in the midst of the powdered perukes in her recep- 
tion-room (Ibrahim had been wounded in the head, and 
wore a bandage instead of a peruke). He was twenty-seven 
years of age, and was tall and slender, and more than 
one beauty glanced at him with a feeling more flattering 
than simple curiosity. But the prejudiced Ibrahim either 
did not observe anything of this or merely looked upon it as 
coquetry. But when his glances met those of the Countess, 
his distrust vanished. Her eyes expressed such winning 
kindness, her manner towards him was so simple, so uncon- 
strained, that it was impossible to suspect her of the least 
shadow of coquetry or raillery. 


The thought of love had not entered his head, but to see 
the Countess each day had become a necessity to him. He 
tried to meet her everywhere, and every meeting with her 
seemed an unexpected favour from heaven. The Countess 
guessed his feelings before he himself did. There is no 
denying that a love, which is without hope and which 
demands nothing, touches the female heart more surely than 
all the devices of the libertine. In the presence of Ibrahim, 
the Countess followed all his movements, listened to every 
word that he said ; without him she became thoughtful, and 
fell into her usual absence of mind. Merville was the first 
to observe this mutual inclination, and he congratulated 
Ibrahim. Nothing inflames love so much as the approving 
observations of a bystander : love is blind, and, having no 
trust in itself, readily grasps hold of every support. 

Merville's words roused Ibrahim. The possibility of 
possessing the woman that he loved had never till then 
occurred to his mind; hope suddenly dawned upon his 
soul; he fell madly in love. In vain did the Countess, 
alarmed by the ardour of his passion, wish to combat his 
vehemence with friendly warnings and wise counsels, she 
herself was beginning to waver. . . . 

Nothing is hidden from the eyes of the observing world. 
The Countess's new inclination was soon known by every- 
body. Some ladies were amazed at her choice ; to many it 
seemed quite natural. Some laughed ; others regarded her 
conduct as unpardonably indiscreet. In the first intoxica- 
tion of passion, Ibrahim and the Countess observed nothing, 
but soon the equivocal jokes of the men and the sarcastic 
observations of the women began to reach their ears. 
Ibrahim's cold and serious manner had hitherto protected 
him from such attacks ; he bore them with impatience, and 
knew not how to retaliate. The Countess, accustomed to 
the respect of the world, could not calmly bear to see her- 


self an object of calumny and ridicule. With tears in hei 
eyes she complained to Ibrahim, now bitterly reproaching 
him, now imploring him not to defend her, lest by some use- 
less brawl she should be completely ruined. 

A new circumstance tended to make her position still 
more difficult : the result of imprudent love began to be 
noticeable. The Countess in despair informed Ibrahim of 
the matter. Consolation, advice, proposals — all were ex- 
hausted and all rejected. The Countess saw that her ruin 
was inevitable, and in despair awaited it. 

As soon as the condition of the Countess became known, 
gossip began again with renewed vigour ; sentimental women 
gave vent to exclamations of horror; and epigrams were 
disseminated with reference to her husband, who alone in 
all Paris knew nothing and suspected nothing. 

The fatal moment approached. The condition of the 
Countess was terrible. Ibrahim visited her every day. He 
saw her mental and physical strength gradually giving way. 
Her tears and her terror were renewed every moment 
Measures were hastily taken. Means were found for getting 
the Count out of the way. The doctor arrived. Two days 
before this a poor woman had been persuaded to resign into 
the hands of strangers her new-born infant ; for this a confi- 
dential person was sent. Ibrahim was in the room adjoining 
the bedchamber where lay the unhappy Countess. . . . Sud- 
denly he heard the weak cry of a child — and, unable to 
repress his delight, he rushed into the Countess's room. . . . 
A black baby lay upon the bed at her feet. Ibrahim ap- 
proached it. His heart beat violently. He blessed his son 
with a trembling hand. The Countess smiled faintly and 
stretched out to him her feeble hand, but the doctor, fearing 
that the excitement might be too great for the patient, 
dragged Ibrahim away from her bed. The new-born child 
was placed in a covered basket, and carried out of the house 


by a secret staircase. Then the other child was brought in, 
and its cradle placed in the bedroom. Ibrahim took his 
departure, feeling very ill at ease. The Count was expected. 
He returned late, heard of the happy deliverance of his 
wife, and was much gratified. In this way the public, 
which had been expecting a great scandal, was deceived in 
its hope, and was compelled to console itself with slandering. 
Everything resumed its usual course. 

But Ibrahim felt that there would have to be a change 
in his lot, and that sooner or later his relations with the 
Countess would come to the knowledge of her husband. 
In that case, whatever might happen, the ruin of the 
Countess was inevitable. Ibrahim loved passionately and 
was passionately loved in return, but the Countess was 
wilful and light-minded ; it was not the first time that she 
had loved. Disgust, and even hatred might replace in her 
heart the most tender feelings. Ibrahim already foresaw 
the moment of her coolness. Hitherto he had not known 
jealousy, but with dread he now felt a presentiment of it ; 
he thought that the pain of separation would be less dis- 
tressing, and he resolved to break off the unhappy connec- 
tion, leave Paris, and return to Russia, whither Peter and a 
vague sense of duty had been calling him for a long time. 



DAYS, months passed, and the enamoured Ibrahim 
could not resolve to leave the woman that he had 
seduced. The Countess grew more and more attached to 
him. Their son was being brought up in a distant pro- 
vince. The slanders of the world were beginning to 
subside, and the lovers began to enjoy greater tranquillity, 
silently remembering the past storm and endeavouring not 
to think of the future. 

One day Ibrahim was in the lobby of the Duke of 
Orleans' residence. The Duke, passing by him, stopped, 
and handing him a letter, told him to read it at his leisure. 
It was a letter from Peter the First. The Emperor, guessing 
the true cause of his absence, wrote to the Duke that he 
had no intention of compelling Ibrahim, that he left it to 
his own free will to return to Russia or not, but that in 
any case he would never abandon his former foster-child. 
This letter touched Ibrahim to the bottom of his heart. 
From that moment his resolution was taken. The next day 
he informed the Regent of his intention to set out imme- 
diately for Russia. 

" Reflect upon what you are going to do," said the Duke 
to him : " Russia is not your native country. I do not 
think that you will ever again see your torrid home, but 
your long residence in France has made you equally a 
stranger to the climate and the ways of life of semi-civilized 
Russia. You were not born a subject of Peter. Listen to 
my advice : take advantage of his magnanimous permission. 


remain in France, for which you have already shed your 
blood, and rest assured that here your services and talents 
will not remain unrewarded." 

Ibrahim thanked the Duke sincerely, but remained firm 
in his resolution. 

" I feel very sorry," said the Regent : " but perhaps you 
are right." 

He promised to let him retire from the French service, 
and wrote a full account of the matter to the Czar. 

Ibrahim was soon ready for the journey. On the eve of 
his departure he spent the evening as usual at the house of 

the Countess L . She knew nothing. Ibrahim had 

not the courage to inform her of his intention. The 
Countess was calm and cheerful. She several times called 
him to her and joked about his thoughtfulness. After 
supper the guests departed. The Countess, her husband, 
and Ibrahim were left alone in the parlour. The unhappy 
man would have given everything in the world to have 

been left alone with her ; but Count L seemed to have 

seated himself so comfortably beside the fire, that it ap- 
peared useless to hope that he would leave the room. All 
three remained silent. 

"Bonne niiitV said the Countess at last. 

A pang passed through Ibrahim's heart, and he suddenly 
felt all the horrors of parting. He stood motionless. 

** Bonne nuit^ messieurs ! " repeated the Countess. 

Still he remained motionless. ... At last his eyes 
became dim, his head swam round, and he could scarcely 
walk out of the room. On reaching home, he wrote, 
almost unconsciously, the following letter : 

" I am going away, dear Leonora ; I am leaving you for 
ever. I am writing to you, because I have not the strength 
to inform you otherwise. 


" My happiness could not continue : I have enjoyed it 
against fate and nature. You must have ceased to love 
me ; the enchantment must have vanished. This thought 
has always pursued me, even in those moments when I 
have seemed to forget everything, when at your feet I have 
been intoxicated by your passionate self-denial, by your 
unbounded tenderness. . . . The thoughtless world un- 
mercifully runs down that which it permits in theory; its 
cold irony sooner or later would have vanquished you, would 
have humbled your ardent soul, and at last you would have 
become ashamed of your passion. . . . What would then 
have become of me ? No, it were better that I should die, 
better that I should leave you before that terrible moment. 

" Your tranquillity is dearer to me than everything : you 
could not enjoy it while the eyes of the world were fixed 
upon you. Think of all that you have suffered, all your 
wounded self-love, all the tortures of fear ; remember the 
terrible birth of our son. Think : ought I to expose you 
any longer to such agitations and dangers ? Why should I 
endeavour to unite the fate of such a tender, beautiful 
creature to the miserable fate of a negro, of a pitiable being, 
scarce worthy of the name of man ? 

*• Farewell, Leonora; farewell, my dear and only friend. 
I am leaving you, I am leaving the first and last joy of my 
life. I have neither fatherland nor kindred ; I am going to 
Russia, where my utter loneliness will be a consolation to 
me. Serious business, to which from this time forth I 
devote myself, if it will not stifle, will at least divert painful 
recollections of the days of rapture and bliss. . . . Farewell, 
Leonora ! I tear myself away from this letter, as if from 
your embrace. Farewell, be happy, and think sometimes of 
the poor negro, of your faithful Ibrahim." 

That same night he set out for Russia. 


The journey did not seem to him as terrible as he had 
expected. His imagination triumphed over the reality. 
The further he got from Paris, the more vivid and nearer 
rose up before him the objects he was leaving for ever. 

Before he was aware of it he had crossed the Russian 
frontier. Autumn had already set in, but the postilions, in 
spite of the bad state of the roads, drove him with the 
speed of the wind, and on the seventeenth day of his 
journey he arrived at Krasnoe Selo, through which at that 
time the high road passed. 

It was still a distance of twenty-eight versts to Petersburg. 
While the horses were being changed, Ibrahim entered the 
post-house. In a corner, a tall man, in a green caftan and 
with a clay pipe in his mouth, was leaning with his elbows 
upon the table reading the *' Hamburg Gazette." Hearing 
somebody enter, he raised his head. 

" Ah, Ibrahim 1 " he exclaimed, rising from the bench. 
" How do you do, godson ? " 

Ibrahim recognized Peter, and in his delight was about 
to rush towards him, but he respectfully paused. The 
Emperor approached, embraced him and kissed him upon 
the forehead. 

*' I was informed of your coming," said Peter, ** and set 
off to meet you. I have been waiting for you here since 

Ibrahim could not find words to express his gratitude. 

"Let your carriage follow on behind us," continued 
the Emperor, " and you take your place by my side and ride 
along with me." 

The Czar's carriage was driven up ; he took his seat with 
Ibrahim, and they set off at a gallop. In about an hour 
and a half they reached Petersburg. Ibrahim gazed with 
curiosity at the new-born city which had sprung up at the 
beck of his master. Bare banks, canals without quay 5, 

432 poushkin's prose tales. 

wooden bridges everywhere testified to the recent triumph of 
the human will over the hostile elements. The houses 
seemed to have been built in a hurry. In the whole town 
there was nothing magnificent but the Neva, not yet 
ornamented with its granite frame, but already covered with 
warships and merchant vessels. The imperial carriage 
stopped at the palace, /.<?., at the Tsaritsin Garden. On the 
steps Peter was met by a woman of about thirty-five years 
of age, handsome, and dressed in the latest Parisian 
fashion. Peter kissed her and, taking Ibrahim by the hand, 
said : 

" Do you recognize my godson, Katinka ? ^ I beg you to 
love and favour him as formerly." 

Catherine fixed on him her dark piercing eyes, and 
stretched out her hand to him in a friendly manner. Two 
young beauties, tall, slender, and fresh as roses, stood 
behind her and respectfully approached Peter. 

" Liza," said he to one of them, " do you remember the 
little negro who stole my apples for you at Oranienbaum ? 
Here he is ; I introduce him to you." 

The Grand Duchess laughed and blushed. They went 
into the dining-room. In expectation of the Emperor the 
table had been laid. Peter sat down to dinner with all his 
family, and invited Ibrahim to sit down with them. During 
the course of the dinner the Emperor conversed with him on 
various subjects, questioned him about the Spanish war, the 
internal afi"airs of France and the Regent, whom he liked, 
although he blamed him for many things. Ibrahim possessed 
an exact and observant mind. Peter was very pleased 
with his replies. He recalled to mind some features of 
Ibrahim's childhood, and related them with such good- 
humour and gaiety, that nobody could have suspected this 

^ Diminutive of Catherine. 


kind and hospitable host to be the hero of Poltava/ the 
powerful and terrible reformer of Russia. 

After dinner the Emperor, according to the Russian 
custom, retired to rest. Ibrahim remained with the Em- 
press and the Grand Duchesses. He tried to satisfy their 
curiosity, described the Parisian way of life, the holidays 
that were kept there, and the changeable fashions. In 
the meantime, some of the persons belonging to the 
Emperor's suite had assembled in the palace. Ibrahim 
recognized the magnificent Prince MenshikofF, who, seeing 
the negro conversing with Catherine, cast an arrogant 
glance at him; Prince Jacob Dolgorouky, Peter's stern 
counsellor; the learned Bruce,^ who had acquired among 
the people the name of the " Russian Faust " ; the young 
Ragouzinsky, his former companion, and others who had 
come to bring reports to the Emperor and to await his 

In about two hours' time the Emperor appeared. 

" Let us see," said he to Ibrahim, " if you have forgotten 
your old duties. Take a slate and follow me." 

Peter shut himself up in his work-room and busied 
himself with state affairs. He worked in turns with Bruce, 
with Prince Dolgorouky, and with General Police-master 
Devier, and dictated to Ibrahim several ukases and de- 
cisions. Ibrahim could not help feeling astonished at the 
quickness and firmness of his understanding, the strength 
and pliability of his powers of observation, and the variety 
of his occupations. When the work was finished, Peter 
drew out a pocket-book in order to see if all that he had 
proposed to do that day had been accomplished. Then, 
issuing from the work-room, he said to Ibrahim : 

^ A town in the Ukraine, where, in 1709, the Swedes, under Charles 
XII., were completely routed by the Russians under Peter the Great. 
^ Peter the Great encouraged foreigners of ability to settle in Russia. 


" It is late ; no doubt you are tired, — sleep here to-night. 
as you used to do in the old times ; to-morrow I will wake 

Ibrahim, on being left alone, could hardly collect his 
thoughts. He found himself in Petersburg ; he saw again 
the great man, near whom, not yet knowing his worth, he 
had passed his childhood. Almost with regret he confessed 

to himself that the Countess L , for the first time since 

their separation, had not been his sole thought during the 
whole of the day. He saw that the new mode of life which 
awaited him, — the activity and constant occupation, — would 
revive his soul, wearied by passion, idleness and secret 
grief. The thought of being a fellow-worker with the great 
man, and, in conjunction with him, of influencing the fate of 
a great nation, aroused within him for the first time the noble 
feeling of ambition. In this disposition of mind he lay 
down upon the camp bed prepared for him, and then the 
usual dreams carried him back to far-off Paris, to the arms 
of his dear Countess. 



THE next morning, Peter, according to his promise, 
awoke Ibrahim and congratulated him on his elevation 
to the rank of Captain-lieutenant of the Grenadier company 
of the Preobrajensky Regiment,^ in which he himself was 
Captain. The courtiers surrounded Ibrahim, each in his 
way trying to flatter the new favourite. The haughty Prince 
Menshikoff pressed his hand in a friendly manner; Shere- 
metieff inquired after his Parisian acquaintances, and Golovin 
invited him to dinner. Others followed the example of the 
latter, so that Ibrahim received invitations for at least a 
whole month. 

Ibrahim now began to lead a monotonous but busy life, 
consequently he did not feel at all dull. From day to day 
he became more attached to the Emperor, and was better 
able to estimate his lofty soul. To follow the thoughts of a 
great man is a very interesting study. Ibrahim saw Peter 
in the Senate disputing with Boutourlin and Dolgorouky, in 
the Admiralty College discussing the naval power of Russia ; 
in his hours of leisure he saw him with Feophan, Gavril 
Boujinsky, and Kopievitch, examining translations from 
foreign publications, or visiting the manufactory of a mer- 
chant, the workshop of a mechanic, or the study of some 
learned man. Russia presented to Ibrahim the appearance 
of a huge workshop, where machines alone move, where each 
workman, subject to established rules, is occupied with his 

^ One of the "crack " regiments of the Russian Array. 


own particular business. He felt within himself that he 
ought to work at his own bench also, and endeavour to 
regret as little as possible the gaieties of his Parisian life. 
But it was more difficult for him to drive from his mind that 
other dear recollection : he often thought of the Countess 

L , and pictured to himself her just indignation, her 

tears and her grief. . . . But sometimes a terrible thought 
oppressed him : the seductions of the great world, a new 
tie, another favourite — he shuddered; jealousy began to 
set his African blood in a ferment, and hot tears were ready 
to roll down his swarthy face. 

One morning he was sitting in his study, surrounded by 
business papers, when suddenly he heard a loud greeting in 
French. Ibrahim turned round quickly, and young Kor- 
sakoff, whom he had left in Paris in the whirl of the great 
world, embraced him with joyful exclamations. 

" I have only just arrived," said Korsakoff, " and I have 
come straight to you. All our Parisian acquaintances send 
their greetings to you, and regret your absence. The 
Countess L ordered me to summon you to return with- 
out fail, and here is her letter to you." 

Ibrahim seized it with a trembling hand and looked at the 
well-known handwriting of the address, not daring to believe 
his eyes. 

" How glad I am," continued Korsakoff, " that you have 
not yet died of ennui in this barbarous Petersburg ! What 
do people do here? How do they occupy themselves? 
Who is your tailor? Have they established an opera?" 

Ibrahim absently replied that probably the Emperor was 
just then at work in the dockyard. 

Korsakoff laughed. 

" I see," said he, " that you do not want me just now j 
some other time we will have a long chat together ; I am 
now going to pay my respects to the Emperor." 


With these words he turned on his heel and hastened out 
of the room. 

Ibrahim, left alone, hastily opened the letter. The 
Countess tenderly complained to him, reproaching him 
with dissimulation and distrustfulness. 

" You say," wrote she, " that my tranquillity is dearer to 
you than everything in the world. Ibrahim, if this were the 
truth, would you have brought me to the condition to which 
I was reduced by the unexpected news of your departure ? 
You were afraid that I might have detained you. Be 
assured that, in spite of my love, I should have known how 
to sacrifice it for your happiness and for what you consider 
your duty." 

The Countess ended the letter with passionate assurances 
of love, and implored him to write to her, if only now and 
then, even though there should be no hope of their ever 
seeing each other again. 

Ibrahim read this letter through twenty times, kissing the 
priceless lines with rapture. He was burning with impatience 
to hear something about the Countess, and he was just pre- 
paring to set out for the Admiralty, hoping to find Korsakoff 
still there, when the door opened, and Korsakoff himself 
appeared once more. He had already paid his respects to 
the Emperor, and as was usual with him, he seemed very 
well satisfied with himself. 

^^ Entre nouSy^ he said to Ibrahim, "the Emperor is a 
very strange man. Just fancy, I found him in a sort of linen 
under-vest, on the mast of a new ship, whither I was com- 
pelled to climb with my dispatches. I stood on the rope 
ladder, and had not sufficient room to make a suitable bow, 
and so I became completely confused, a thing that had never 
happened to me in my life before. However, when the 
Emperor had read my letter, he looked at me from head to 
foot, and no doubt was agreeably struck by the taste and 


splendour of my attire; at any rate he smiled and invited 
me to to-day's assembly. But I am a perfect stranger in 
Petersburg ; during the course of my six years' absence I 
have quite forgotten the local customs ; pray be my mentor ; 
come with me and introduce me." 

Ibrahim agreed to do so, and hastened to turn the con- 
versation to a subject that was more interesting to him. 

" Well, and how about the Countess L ." 

" The Countess ? Of course, at first she was very much 
grieved on account of your departure ; then, of course, little 
by little, she grew reconciled and took unto herself a new 
lover: do you know whom? The long-legged Marquis 

R . Why do you show the whites of your negro eyes in 

that manner? Does it seem strange to you? Don't you 
know that lasting grief is not in human nature, particularly 
in feminine nature ? Think over this well, while I go and 
rest after my journey, and don't forget to come and call 
for me." 

What feelings filled the soul of Ibrahim? Jealousy? 
Rage ? Despair ? No, but a deep, oppressing sorrow. He 
repeated to himself : " I foresaw it, it had to happen." Then 
he opened the Countess's letter, read it again, hung his 
head and wept bitterly. He wept for a long time. The 
tears relieved his heart. Looking at the clock, he perceived 
that it was time to set out. Ibrahim would have been very 
glad to stay away, but the assembly was a matter of duty, 
and the Emperor strictly demanded the presence of his 
retainers. He dressed himself and started out to call for 

Korsakoff was sitting in his dressing-gown, reading a 
French book. 

" So early ? " he said to Ibrahim, on seeing him. 

" Pardon me," the latter replied; *'it is already half-past 
five, we shall be late ; make haste and dress and let us go." 


Korsakoff started up and rang the bell with all his might; 
the servants came running in, and he began hastily to dress 
himself. His French valet gave him shoes with red heels, 
blue velvet breeches, and a red caftan embroidered with 
spangles. His peruke was hurriedly powdered in the ante- 
chamber and brought in to him. Korsakoff placed it upon 
his cropped head, asked for his sword and gloves, turned 
round about ten times before the glass, and then informed 
Ibrahim that he was ready. The footmen handed them 
their bearskin cloaks, and they set out for the Winter 

Korsakoff overwhelmed Ibrahim with questions : Who 
was the greatest beauty in Petersburg ? Who was supposed 
to be the best dancer? Which dance was just then the 
rage? Ibrahim very reluctantly gratified his curiosity. 
Meanwhile they reached the palace. A great number of 
long sledges, old-fashioned carriages, and gilded coaches 
already stood on the lawn. Near the steps were crowded 
coachmen in liveries and moustaches; running footmen 
glittering with tinsel and feathers, and bearing staves; 
hussars, pages, and clumsy servants loaded with the cloaks 
and muffs of their masters — a train indispensable according 
to the notions of the gentry of that time. At the sight of 
Ibrahim, a general murmur arose : ** The negro, the negro, 
the Czar's negro ! " He hurriedly conducted Korsakoff 
through this motley crowd. The Court lackey opened wide 
the doors to them, and they entered the hall. Korsakoff 
was dumfounded. ... In the large room, illuminated by 
tallow candles, which burnt dimly amidst clouds of tobacco 
smoke, magnates with blue ribbons across their shoulders, 
ambassadors, foreign merchants, officers of the Guards in 
green uniforms, ship-masters in jackets and striped trousers, 
moved backwards and forwards in crowds to the uninter- 
rupted sound of the music of wind instruments. The ladies 


sat against the walls, the young ones being decked out in all 
the splendour of the prevailing fashion. Gold and silver 
glittered upon their dresses ; out of monstrous farthingales 
their slender forms rose like flower stalks; diamonds 
sparkled in their ears, in their long curls, and around their 
necks. They glanced gaily about to the right and to the 
left, waiting for their cavaliers and for the dancing to begin. 
The elderly ladies craftily endeavoured to combine the new 
style of dress with that of the past ; their caps were made to 
resemble the small sable head-dress of the Empress Natalia 
Kirilovna,^ and their gowns and mantles recalled the 
sarafan and doushegreika^ They seemed to take part in 
these newly introduced amusements more with astonishment 
than pleasure, and cast looks of resentment at the wives and 
daughters of the Dutch skippers, who, in dimity skirts and 
red jackets, knitted their stockings and laughed and chatted 
among themselves as if they were at home. 

Observing new arrivals, a servant approached them with 
beer and glasses on a tray. Korsakoff was completely 

" Que diable est ce que tout cela 1 " he said in a whisper to 

Ibrahim could not repress a smile. The Empress and 
the Grand Duchesses, dazzling in their beauty and their 
attire, walked through the rows of guests, conversing affably 
with them. The Emperor was in another room. Korsakoff", 
wishing to show himself to him, with difficulty succeeded in 
pushing his way thither through the constantly moving 
crowd. In this room were chiefly foreigners, solemnly 
smoking their clay pipes and drinking out of earthenware 
jugs. On the tables were bottles of beer and wine, leather 
pouches with tobacco, glasses of punch, and some chess- 

^ The mother of Peter the Great. "^ A short sleeveless jacket. 


i( boards. At one of these Peter was playing at chess with a 
! i broad-shouldered English skipper. They zealously saluted 
;' one another with whiffs of tobacco smoke, and the Emperor 
! was so occupied with an unexpected move that had been 
, i made by his opponent, that he did not observe Korsakoff, as 
! he smirked and capered about them. Just then a stout 
1 gentleman, with a large bouquet upon his breast, rushed 
i hurriedly into the room and announced in a loud voice that 
j the dancing had commenced, and immediately retired. A 
large number of the guests followed him, Korsakoff being 
1 among the number. 

; An unexpected scene filled him with astonishment. Along 
the whole length of the ball-room, to the sound of the most 
mournful music, the ladies and gentlemen stood in two rows 
racing each other; the gentlemen bowed low, the ladies 
curtsied still lower, first to the front, then to the right, then 
to the left, then again to the front, again to the right, and so 
on. Korsakoff, gazing at this peculiar style of amusement, 
opened wide his eyes and bit his lips. The curtseying and 
bowing continued for about half an hour; at last they 
ceased, and the stout gentleman with the bouquet announced 
that the ceremonial dances were ended, and ordered the 
musicians to play a minuet. Korsakoff felt delighted, and 
prepared to shine. Among the young ladies was one in 
particular whom he was greatly charmed with. She was 
about sixteen years of age, was richly dressed, but with 
taste, and sat near an elderly gentleman of stern and dignified 
appearance. Korsakoff approached her and asked her to do 
him the honour of dancing with him. The young beauty 
looked at him in confusion, and did not seem to know what 
to say to him. The gentleman sitting near her frowned 
still more. Korsakoff awaited her decision, but the gentle- 
man with the bouquet came up to him, led him to the 
middle of the room, and said in a pompous manner ; 


'* Sir, you have done wrong. In the first place, you 
approached this young person without making the three 
necessary reverences to her, and in the second place, you 
took upon yourself to choose her, whereas, in the minuet 
that right belongs to the lady, and not to the gentleman. 
On that account you must be severely, punished, that is to 
say, you must drain the goblet of the Great Eagle." 

Korsakoff grew more and more astonished. In a moment 
the guests surrounded him, loudly demanding the imme- 
diate fulfilment of the law. Peter, hearing the laughter and 
the cries, came out of the adjoining room, as he was very 
fond of being present in person at such punishments. The 
crowd divided before him, and he entered the circle, where 
stood the culprit and before him the marshal of the Court 
holding in his hands a huge goblet filled with malmsey wine. 
He was trying in vain to persuade the offender to comply 
willingly with the law. 

"Aha !" said Peter, seeing Korsakoff: "you are caught, 
my friend. Come now, monsieur, drink up and no frown- 
ing about it." 

There was no help for it : the poor beau, without pausing 
to take breath, drained the goblet to the dregs and returned 
it to the marshal. 

" Hark you, Korsakoff," said Peter to him : " those 
breeches of yours are of velvet, such as I myself do not 
wear, and I am far richer than you. That is extravagance ; 
take care that I do not fall out with you." 

Hearing this reprimand, Korsakoff wished to make his 
way out of the circle, but he staggered and almost fell, to the 
indescribable delight of the Emperor and all the merry com- 
pany. This episode not only did not spoil the unison and 
interest of the principal performance, but even enlivened it. 
The gentlemen began to scrape and bow, and the ladies to 
curtsey and knock their heels with great zeal, and this time 


without paying the least attention to the time of the music. 
Korsakoff could not take part in the general gaiety. The 
lady, whom he had chosen, by the order of her father, 
Gavril Afanassievitch Rjevsky, approached Ibrahim, and, 
dropping her blue eyes, timidly gave him her hand. 
Ibrahim danced the minuet with her and led her back to 
her former place, then sought out Korsakoff, led him out of 
the ball-room, placed him in the carriage and drove home. 
On the way Korsakoff began to mutter in an incoherent 
manner : " Accursed assembly ! . . . accursed goblet of the 
Great Eagle ! " . . . but he soon fell into a sound sleep, and 
knew not how he reached home, nor how he was undressed 
and put into bed : and he awoke the next day with a head- 
ache, and with a dim recollection of the scraping, the 
curtseying, the tobacco-smoke, the gentleman with the 
bouquet, and the goblet of the Great Eagle. 




r MUST now introduce the gracious reader to Gavril 
A Afanassievitch Rjevsky. He was descended from an 
ancient noble family, possessed vast estates, was hospitable, 
loved falconry, and had a large number of domestics, — in a 
word, he was a genuine Russian nobleman. To use his own 
expression, he could not endure the German spirit, and he 
endeavoured to preserve in his home the ancient customs 
that were so dear to him. His daughter was in her seven- 
teenth year. She had lost her mother while she was yet in 
her infancy, and she had been brought up in the old style, 
that is to say, she was surrounded by governesses, nurses, 
playfellows, and maidservants, was able to embroider in 
gold, and could neither read nor write. Her father, notwith- 
standing his dislike to everything foreign, could not oppose 
her wish to learn German dances from a captive Swedish 
officer, living in their house. This deserving dancing- 
master was about fifty years of age ; his right foot had been 
shot through at Narva,^ and consequently he was not very 
well suited for minuets and courantes, but the left executed 
with wonderful ease and agiHty the most difficult steps. His 
pupil did honour to his teaching. Natalia Gavrilovna was 
celebrated for being the best dancer at the assemblies, 
and this was partly the cause of the mistake made by 
Korsakoff, who came the next day to apologize to Gavril 

^ A town on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland, and the scene 
of a great battle in 1700, when the Russians were completely routed by 
the Swedes under Charles XII. 


Afanassievitch ; but the airiness and elegance of the young 
fop did not find favour in the eyes of the proud noble, who 
wittily nicknamed him the French monkey- 
It was a holiday. Gavril Afanassievitch expected some 
relatives and friends. In the ancient hall a long table was 
laid. The guests arrived with their wives and daughters, who 
had at last been set free from domestic imprisonment by the 
decree of the Emperor and by his own example.^ Natalia 
Gavrilovna carried round to each guest a silver tray laden 
with golden cups, and each man, as he drained his, re- 
gretted that the kiss, which it was customary to receive 
on such occasions in the olden times, had gone out of 

They sat down to table. In the first place, next to the 
host, sat his father-in-law, Prince Boris Alexeievitch Likoff, 
a boyar ^ of seventy years of age ; the other guests ranged 
themselves according to the antiquity of their family, thus 
recalling the happy times when respect for age was observed. 
The men sat on one side, the women on the other. At the 
end of the table, the housekeeper in her old-fashioned 
costume — a little woman of thirty, affected and wrinkled — 
and the captive dancing-master, in his faded blue uniform, 
occupied their accustomed places. The table, which was 
covered with a large number of dishes, was surrounded by 
an anxious crowd of domestics, among whom was dis- 
tinguishable the house-steward, with his severe look, big 
paunch and lofty immobility. The first few minutes of 
dinner were devoted entirely to the productions of our old 
cookery; the noise of plates and the rattling of spoons 
alone interrupted the general silence. At last the host, 

^ Previous to the reign of Peter the Great, the Russian women lived 
in almost Oriental seclusion, and it was for the purpose of abolishing 
this custom that Peter established his famous "assemblies." 

* A noble of the second degree. 


seeing that the time had arrived for amusing the guests with 
agreeable conversation, turned round and asked : 

" But where is Ekemovna ? Summon her hither." 

Several servants were about to rush off in different direc- 
tions, but at that moment an old woman, painted white and 
red, decorated with flowers and tinsel, in a silk gown with 
a low neck, entered, singing and dancing. Her appearance 
produced general satisfaction. 

"Good-day, Ekemovna," said Prince Likoff: "how do 
you do?" 

" Quite well and happy, gossip : still singing and dancing 
and looking out for sweethearts." 

*' Where have you been, fool ? " asked the host. 

"Decorating myself, gossip, for the dear guests, for this 
holy day, by order of the Czar, by command of my master, 
to be a laughing-stock for everybody after the German 

At these words there arose a loud burst of laughter, and 
the fool took her place behind the host's chair. 

" A fool talks nonsense, but sometimes speaks the truth," 
said Tatiana Afanassievna, the eldest sister of the host, and 
for whom he entertained great respect. " As a matter of 
fact, the present fashion must seem ridiculous in the eyes of 
everybody. But since you, gentlemen, have shaved off your 
beards ^ and put on short caftans^ it is, of course, useless to 
talk about women's rags, although it is really a pity about 
the sarafan^ the maiden's ribbons, and t\iQ povoinik/^ It is 
pitiable and at the same time laughable, to see the beauties 
of to-day : their hair frizzed like tow, greased and covered 
with French powder ; the waist drawn in to such a degree, 

^ In his zeal to introduce into his empire the customs of Western 
Europe, Peter the Great issued an order that all Russians were to shave 
off their beards. 

^ The national head-dress of the Russian women. 


that it is almost on the point of breaking in two; theii 
petticoats are distended with hoops, so that they have to 
enter a carriage sideways ; to go through a door they are 
obhged to stoop down ; they can neither stand, nor sit, nor 
breathe — real martyrs, the poor doves ! " 

** Oh, little mother Tatiana Afanassievna ! " said Kirila 

Petrovitch T , a former governor of Riazan, where he 

acquired three thousand serfs and a young wife, both by 
somewhat dishonourable means, " as far as I am concerned, 
my wife may diess as she pleases, and wear what she likes, 
provided that she does not order new dresses every month 
and throw away the former ones that are nearly new. In 
former times the grandmother's sarafan formed part of the 
granddaughter's dowry, but nowadays all that is changed : 
the dress, that the mistress wears to-day, you will see the 
servant wearing to-morrow. What is to be done ? It is the 
ruin of the Russian nobility, alas ! " 

At these words he sighed and looked at his Maria 
Ilienishna, who did not seem at all to like either his 
praises of the past or his disparagement of the latest cus- 
toms. The other young ladies shared her displeasure, but 
they remained silent, for modesty was then considered an 
indispensable attribute in young women. 

"And who is to blame?" said Gavril Afanassievitch, 
filling a tankard with an effervescing beverage. "Isn't it 
our own fault? The young women play the fool, and we 
encourage them." 

"But what can we do, when our wishes are not con- 
sulted ? " replied Kirila Petrovitch. " One would be glad 
to shut his wife up in an attic, but with beating of drums 
she is summoned to appear at the assemblies. The husband 
goes after the whip, but the wife after dress. Oh, those 
assemblies ! The Lord has sent them upon us as^a punish- 
ment for our sins." 


Maria Ilienishna sat as if upon needles; her tongue 
itched to speak. At last she could restrain herself no 
longer, and turning to her husband, she asked him with an 
acid smile, what he found wrong in the assemblies. 

"This is what I find wrong in them," replied the pro- 
voked husband : " since the time when they commenced, 
husbands have been unable to manage their wives; wives 
have forgotten the words of the Apostle : ' Let the wife 
reverence her husband*; they no longer busy themselves 
about domestic affairs, but about new dresses ; they do not 
think of how to please their husbands, but how to attract 
the attention of frivolous officers. And is it becoming, 
Madame, for a Russian lady to associate with German 
smokers and their work-women? And was ever such a 
thing heard of, as dancing and talking with young men till"- 
far into the night ? It would be all very well if it were with 
relatives, but with strangers, with people that they are 
totally unacquainted with ! " 

" I would say just a word, but there is a wolf not far off," 
said Gavril Afanassievitch, frowning. ** I confess that these 
assemblies are not to my liking : before you know where 
you are, you knock against some drunkard, or are made 
drunk yourself to become the laughing-stock of others. 
Then you must keep your eyes open lest some good-for- 
nothing fellow should act the fool with your daughter ; the 
young men nowadays are so spoilt, that they cannot be 
worse. Look, for example, at the son of the late Evgraf 
Sergeievitch Korsakoff, who at the last assembly made so 
much noise about Natasha,^ that it brought the blood to 
my cheeks. The next day I see somebody driving straight 
into my courtyard ; I thought to myself, who in the name 
of Heaven is it, can it be Prince Alexander Danilovitch P^ 

' Diminutive of Natalia. 


But no : it was Ivan Evgrafovitch ! He could not stop at 
the gate and make his way on foot to the steps, not he ! 
He flew in, bowing and chattering, the Lord preserve us ! 
The fool Ekemovna mimics him very amusingly : by the 
way, fool, give us an imitation of the foreign monkey." 

The fool Ekemovna seized hold of a dish-cover, placed 
it under her arm like a hat, and began twisting, scraping, 
and bowing in every direction, repeating: "monsieur 
. . . mamselle . . . assembl^e . . . pardon." General 
and prolonged laughter again testified to the delight of the 

"Just like Korsakoff," said old Prince Likoff, wiping 
away the tears of laughter, when calmness was again re- 
stored. " But why conceal the fact ? He is not the first, 
nor will he be the last, who has returned from abroad to 
holy Russia a buffoon. What do our children learn there ? 
To scrape with their feet, to chatter God knows in what 
gibberish, to treat their elders with disrespect, and to 
dangle after other men's wives. Of all the young people 
who have been educated abroad (the Lord forgive me !) 
the Czar's negro most resembles a man." 

" Oh, Prince," said Tatiana Afanassievna : " I have seen 
him, I have seen him quite close : what a frightful muzzle 
he has ! He quite terrified me ! " 

" Of course," observed Gavril Afanassievitch : " he is a 
sober, decent man, and not a mere weathercock. . . . But 
who is it that has just driven through the gate into the 
courtyard ? Surely it cannot be that foreign monkey again ? 
Why do you stand gaping there, beasts?" he continued, 
turning to the servants : " run and stop him from coming in, 
and for the future . . ." 

"Old beard, are you dreaming?" interrupted Ekemovna 
the fool, " or are you blind ? It is the imperial sledge — the 
Czar has come." 


Gavril Afanassievitch rose hastily from the table ; every- 
body rushed to the window, and sure enough they saw the 
Emperor ascending the steps, leaning on the shoulder of his 
servant. A great confusion arose. The host rushed tc 
meet Peter ; the servants ran hither and thither as if the) 
had gone crazy; the guests became alarmed; some evei 
thought how they might hasten home as quickly as possible. 
Suddenly the thundering voice of Peter resounded in the 
ante-room ; all became silent, and the Czar entered, accom- 
panied by his host, who was beside himself with joy. 

" Good day, gentlemen ! " said Peter, with a cheerfi 

All made a profound bow. The sharp eyes of the Czai 
sought out in the crowd the young daughter of the host ; he 
called her to him. Natalia Gavrilovna advanced boldly 
enough, but she blushed not only to the ears but even to the 

** You grow more beautiful every day,*' said the Emperoi 
to her, and according to his usual custom he kissed hei 
upon the head ; then turning to the guests, he added : " ] 
have disturbed you? You were dining? Pray sit down 
again, and give me some aniseed brandy, Gavril Afanassie- 

The host rushed to the stately house-steward, snatched 
from his hand a tray, filled a golden goblet himself, anc 
gave it with a bow to the Emperor. Peter drank the brandy, 
ate a biscuit, and for the second time requested the guests 
to continue their dinner. All resumed their former places, 
except the dwarf and the housekeeper, who did not dare to 
remain at a table honoured by the presence of the Czar. 
Peter sat down by the side of the host and asked for some 
soup. The Emperor's servant gave him a wooden spoon 
mounted with ivory, and a knife and fork with green bone 
handles, for Peter never used any other knives, forks and 


spoons but his own. The dinner, which a moment before 
had been so noisy and merry, was now continued in silence 
and constraint. The host, through respect and delight, ate 
nothing ; the guests also stood upon ceremony and listened 
with respectful attention, as the Emperor discoursed in 
German with the captive Swede about the campaign of 
1 701. The fool Ekemovna, several times questioned by 
the Emperor, replied with a sort of timid coldness, which, 
be it remarked, did not at all prove her natural stupidity. At 
last the dinne:r came to an end. The Emperor rose, and 
after him all the guests. 

" Gavril Afanassievitch ! " he said to the host : " I want 
to say a word with you alone ; " and, taking him by the arm, 
he led him into the parlour and locked the door. The 
guests remained in the dining-room, talking in whispers 
about the unexpected visit, and, afraid of being indiscreet, 
they soon dispersed one after another, without thanking the 
host for his hospitaHty. His father-in-law, daughter, and 
sister conducted them very quietly to the door, and remained 
alone in the dining-room, awaiting the issue of the Emperor, 




ABOUT half an hour afterwards the door opened and 
Peter issued forth. With a dignified inclination of 
the head he replied to the threefold bow of Prince Likoff, 
Tatiana Afanassievna and Natasha, and walked straight out 
into the ante-room. The host handed him his red cloak, 
conducted him to the sledge, and on the steps thanked him 
once more for the honour he had shown him. 

Peter drove off. 

Returning to the dining-room, Gavril Afanassievitch 
seemed very much troubled; he angrily ordered the ser- 
vants to clear the table as quickly as possible, sent Natasha 
to her own room, and, informing his sister and father-in-law 
that he must talk with them, he led them into the bedroom, 
where he usually rested after dinner. The old Prince lay 
down upon the oak bed ; Tatiana Afanassievna sat down in 
the old silk-lined armchair, and placed her feet upon the 
footstool ; Gavril Afanassievitch locked the doors, sat down 
upon the bed at the feet of Prince Likoff, and in a low voice 
began : 

" It was not for nothing that the Emperor paid me a visit 
to-day : guess what he wanted to talk to me about." 

"How can we know, brother?" said Tatiana Afanassievna, 

" Has the Czar appointed you to some government ? " said 
his father-in-law : — *' it is quite time enough that he did so. 
Or has he offered an embassy to you? Why not? That 
need not mean being a mere secretary — distinguished people 
are sent to foreign monarchs." 


"No," replied his son-in-law, frowning. "I am a man of 
the old school, and our services nowadays are of no use, 
although, perhaps, an orthodox Russian nobleman is worth 
more than these modern upstarts, bakers and heathens. But 
this is a different matter altogether." 

" Then what is it, brother ? " said Tatiana Afanassievna. 
"Why was he talking with you for such a long time? Can 
it be that you are threatened with some misfortune ? The 
Lord save and defend us ! " 

" No misfortune, certainly, but I confess that it is a matter 
for reflection." 

"Then what is it, brother? What is the matter about ? " 

** It is about Natasha : the Czar came to ask for her hand." 

" God be thanked ! " said Tatiana Afanassievna, crossing 
herself. " The maiden is of a marriageable age, and as the 
matchmaker is, so must the bridegroom be. God give 
them love and counsel, the honour is great. For whom 
does the Czar ask her hand ? " 

"H'm!" exclaimed Gavril Afanassievitch ; "for whom? 
That's just it — for whom ! " 

" Who is it, then ? " repeated Prince Likoff, already be- 
ginning to doze off to sleep. 

" Guess," said Gavril Afanassievitch. 

" My dear brother," repUed the old lady : " how can we 
guess ? There are a great number of marriageable men at 
Court, each of whom would be glad to take your Natasha for 
his wife. Is it Dolgorouky ? " 

"No, it is not Dolgorouky." 

"God be with him: he is too overbearing. Schein? 
Troekouroff ? " 

" No, neither the one nor the other." 

" I do not care for them either ; they are flighty, and too 
much imbued with the German spirit. Well, is it Milo- 
slavsky ? " 


poushkin's prose tales. 

"No, not he." 

" God be with him, he is rich and stupid. Who then ? 
Eletsky? Lvoff? It cannot be Ragouzinsky? I cannot 
think of anybody else. For whom, then, does the Czar want 
Natasha ? " 

" For the negro Ibrahim." 

The old lady uttered a cry and clasped her hands. Prince 
Likoff raised his head from the pillow, and with astonishmei 
repeated : 

" For the negro Ibrahim ? " 

" My dear brother ! " said the old lady in a tearful voice| 
" do not destroy your dear child, do not deliver poor littU 
Natasha into the clutches of that black devil." 

"How?" replied Gavril Afanassievitch : "refuse the 
Emperor, who promises in return to bestow his favour upor 
us and all our house." 

" What ! " exclaimed the old Prince, who was now wi( 
awake : " Natasha, my granddaughter, to be married to 
bought negro." ,, 

" He is not of common birth," said Gavril Afanassievitch] 
" he is the son of a negro Sultan. The Mussulmen toe 
him prisoner and sold him in Constantinople, and oui 
ambassador bought him and presented him to the CzarJ 
The negro's eldest brother came to Russia with a con« 
siderable ransom and " 

" We have heard the story of Bova Korolevitch ^ an( 
Erouslana Lazarevitch." ^ 

" My dear Gavril Afanassievitch ! " interrupted the oh 
lady, "tell us rather how you replied to the Emperor's 

" I said that we were under his authority, and that it was 
our duty to obey him in all things." 

^ The two principal characters in one of the legendary stories ofj 


At that moment a noise was heard behind the door. 
Gavril Afanassievitch went to open it, but felt some obstruc- 
tion. He pushed against it with increased force, the door 
opened, and they saw Natasha lying in a swoon upon the 
blood-stained floor. 

Her heart sank within her, when the Emperor shut him- 
self up with her father; some presentiment whispered to 
her that the matter concerned her, and when Gavril 
Afanassievitch ordered her to withdraw, saying that he 
wished to speak to her aunt and grandfather, she could not 
resist the instinct of feminine curiosity, stole quietly along 
through the inner rooms to the bedroom door, and did not 
miss a single word of the whole terrible conversation ; when 
she heard her father's last words, the poor girl lost con- 
sciousness, and falling, struck her head against an iron- 
bound chest, in which was kept her dowry. 

The servants hastened to the spot ; Natasha was lifted 
up, carried to her own room, and placed in bed. After a 
little time she regained consciousness, opened her eyes, but 
recognized neither father nor aunt. A violent fever set in ; 
she spoke in her delirium about the Czar's negro, about 
marriage, and suddenly cried in a plaintive and piercing voice : 

" Valerian, dear Valerian, my life, save me ! there they 
are, there they are. . . ." 

Tatiana Afanassievna glanced uneasily at her brother, 
who turned pale, bit his lips, and silently left the room. He 
returned to the old Prince, who, unable to mount the 
stairs, had remained below. 

" How is Natasha?" asked he. 

" Very bad," replied the grieved father : " worse than I 
thought ; she is delirious, and raves about Valerian." 

" Who is this Valerian ? " asked the anxious old man. 
*' Can it be that orphan, the archer's son, whom you 
brought up in your house ? " 


** The same, to my misfortune ! " replied Gavril Afan. 
assievitch. "His father, at the time of the rebellion, 
saved my life, and the devil induced me to take thi 
accursed young wolf into my house. When, two years ag< 
he was enrolled in the regiment at his own requesi 
Natasha, on taking leave of him, shed bitter tears, and h( 
stood as if petrified. This seemed suspicious to me, and 
spoke about it to my sister. But since that time Natashi 
has never mentioned his name, and nothing whatever h; 
been heard of him. I thought that she had forgotten hii 
but it is evident that such is not the case. But it is 
decided : she shall marry the negro." 

Prince Likoff did not contradict him : it would havi 
been useless. He returned home; Tatiana Afanassievn; 
remained by the side of Natasha's bed ; Gavril Afanassie- 
vitch, having sent for the doctor, locked himself in hi 
room, and in his house all was still and sad. 

The unexpected proposal astonished Ibrahim quite ai 
much as Gavril Afanassievitch. This is how it happened. 
Peter, being engaged in business with Ibrahim, said to 
him : 

" I perceive, my friend, that you are downhearted ; 
speak frankly, what is it you want ? " 

Ibrahim assured the Emperor that he was very well 
satisfied with his lot, and wished for nothing better. 

" Good," said the Emperor : " if you are dull without 
any cause, I know how to cheer you up." 

At the conclusion of the work, Peter asked Ibrahim : 

*' Do you like the young lady with whom you danced the 
minuet at the last assembly ? " 

" She is very charming, Your Majesty, and seems to be a 
good and modest girl." 

" Then I shall take it upon myself to make you better 
acquainted with her. Would you like to marry her ? " 



'* I, Your Majesty ? " 

"Listen, Ibrahim: you are a man alone in the world, 
without birth and kindred, a stranger to everybody, except 
myself. Were I to die to-day, what would become of you 
to-morrow, my poor negro? You must get settled while 
there is yet time, find support in new ties, become con- 
nected by marriage with the Russian nobility." 

" Your Majesty, I am happy under your protection, and 
in the possession of your favour. God grant that I may 
not survive my Czar and benefactor — I wish for nothing 
more; but even if I had any idea of getting married, 
would the young lady and her relations consent ? My 
appearance " 

^' Your appearance ? What nonsense ! A clever fellow 
like you, too ! A young girl must obey the will of her 
parents, and we will see what old Gavril Rjevsky will say, 
when I myself will be your matchmaker." 

With these words the Emperor ordered his sledge, and 
left Ibrahim sunk in deep reflection. 

" Get married ? " thought the African : " why not ? Am 
I to be condemned to pass my life in solitude, and not 
know the greatest pleasure and the most sacred duties of 
man, just because I was born beneath the torrid zone ? I 
cannot hope to be loved : a childish objection ! Is it 
possible to believe in love? Does it then exist in the 
frivolous heart of woman ? As I have renounced for ever 
such alluring errors, I must devote my attention to ideas oi 
a more practical nature. The Emperor is right : I must 
think of my future. Marriage with the young Rjevsky will 
connect me with the proud Russian nobility, and I shall 
cease to be a sojourner in my new fatherland. From my 
wife I shall not require love : I shall be satisfied with her 
fidelity ; and her friendship I will acquire by constant 
tenderness, confidence and devotion." 


Ibrahim, according to his usual custom, wished to occupy 
himself with work, but his imagination was too excited. He 
left the papers and went for a stroll along the banks of the 
Neva. Suddenly he heard the voice of Peter ; he looked 
round and saw the Emperor, who, dismissing his sledge, 
advanced towards him with a beaming countenance. 

" It is all settled, my friend ! " said Peter, taking him by 
the arm : " I have affianced you. To-morrow, go and visit 
your father-in-law, but see that you humour his boyar 
pride : leave the sledge at the gate, go through the court- 
yard on foot, talk to him about his services and distinctions, 
and he will be perfectly charmed with you. . . . And 
now," continued he, shaking his cudgel, " lead me to that 
rogue Danilitch, with whom I must confer about his recent 

Ibrahim thanked Peter heartily for his fatherly solicitude 
on his account, accompanied him as far as the magnificent 
palace of Prince Menshikoff, and then returned home. 



DIMLY burnt the lamp before the glass case in which 
glittered the gold and silver frames of the sacred 
images. The flickering light faintly illuminated the 
curtained bed and the little table set out with labelled 
medicine-bottles. Near the stove sat a servant-maid at her 
spinning-wheel, and the subdued noise of the spindle was 
the only sound that broke the silence of the room. 

*' Who is there?" asked a feeble voice. 

The servant-maid rose immediately, approached the bed, 
and gently raised the curtain. 

" Will it soon be daylight?" asked Natalia. 

" It is alreaj^y midday," replied the maid. 

I" Oh, Lord of Heaven ! and why is it so dark?" 
" The shutters are closed, miss." 
'• Help me to dress quickly." 
' *' You must not do so, miss ; the doctor has forbidden it." 
' *' Am I ill then ? How long have I been so ? " 
'* About a fortnight." 

"Is it possible? And it seems to me as if it were only 
yesterday that I went to bed. . . ." 

Natasha became silent; she tried to collect her scattered 
thoughts. Something had happened to her, but what it 
was she could not exactly remember. The maid stood 
before her, awaiting her orders. At that moment a dull 
noise was heard below. 

" What is that ? " asked the invalid. 

"The gentlemen have finished dinner," replied the 

46o poushkin's prose tales. 

maid: *' they are rising from the table. Tatiana Afan- 
assievna will be here presently." 

Natasha seemed pleased at this; she waved her feeble 
hand. The maid dropped the curtain and seated herself 
again at the spinning-wheel. 

A few minutes afterwards, a head in a broad white cap 
with dark ribbons appeared in the doorway and asked in 
a low voice : 

*'Howis Natasha?" 

" How do you do, auntie ? " said the invalid in a faint 
voice, and Tatiana Afanassievna hastened towards her. 

"The young lady has regained consciousness," said the 
maid, carefully drawing a chair to the side of the bed. 
The old lady, with tears in her eyes, kissed the pale, 
languid face of her niece, and sat down beside her. Just 
behind her came a German doctor in a black caftan and 
learned wig. He felt Natalia's pulse, and announced in 
Latin, and then in Russian, that the danger was over. He 
asked for paper and ink, wrote out a new prescription, and 
departed. The old lady rose, kissed Natalia once more, 
and immediately hurried down with the good news to 
Gavril Afanassievitch. 

In the parlour, in uniform, with sword by his side and 
hat in his hand, sat the Czar's negro, respectfully talking 
with Gavril Afanassievitch. Korsakoff, stretched out upon 
a soft couch, was listening to their conversation, and 
teasing a venerable greyhound. Becoming tired of this 
occupation, he approached the mirror, the usual refuge of 
the idle, and in it he saw Tatiana Afanassievna, who 
through the doorway w^'s making unnoticed signs to her 

" Someone is calling you, Gavril Afanassievitch," said 
Korsakoff, turning round to him and interrupting Ibrahim's 


Gavril Afanassievitch immediately went to his sister and 
closed the door behind him. 

"I am astonished at your patience," said Korsakoff to 
Ibrahim. " For a full hour you have been listening to a lot 
of nonsense about the antiquity of the Likoff and Rjevsky 
families, and have even added your own moral observa- 
tions ! In your place faurais plante Id the old babbler 
and all his race, including Natalia Gavrilovna, who is an 
affected girl, and is only pretending to be ill — une petite 
sante. Tell me candidly: do you really love this little 
mijauree ? " 

*'No," replied Ibrahim: "I am certainly not going to 
marry, out of love, but out of prudence, and then only if 
she has no decided aversion to me." 

*' Listen, Ibrahim," said Korsakoff, "follow my advice 
this time ; in truth, I am more discreet than I seem. Get 
this fooHsh idea out of your head — don't marry. It seems 
to me that your bride has no particular liking for you. Do 
not a few things happen in this world ? For instance : I am 
certainly not a very bad sort of fellow myself, but yet it 
has happened to me to deceive husbands, who, by the 
Lord, were in no way worse than me. And you yourself 

... do you remember our Parisian friend. Count L ? 

There is no dependence to be placed upon a woman's 
fidelity; happy is he who can regard it with indifference. 
But you ! . . . With your passionate, pensive and sus- 
picious nature, with your fiat nose, thick lips, and shaggy 
head, to rush into all the dangers of matrimony !...." 

" I thank you for your friendly advice," interrupted 
Ibrahim coldly; "but you know the proverb: 'It is not 
your duty to rock other people's children.' " 

" Take care, Ibrahim," replied Korsakoff, laughing, " that 
you are not called upon some day to prove the truth of that 
proverb in the literal sense of the word," 


Meanwhile the conversation in the next room became 
very heated. 

"You will kill her," the old lady was saying: "she; 
cannot bear the sight of him." 

" But judge for yourself," replied her obstinate brother. 
" For a fortnight he has been coming here as her bride- 
groom, and during that time he has not once seen his bride. 
He may think at last that her illness is a mere invention, 
and that we are only seeking to gain time in order to rid 
ourselves of him in some way. And what will the Czar 
say? He has already sent three times to ask after the 
health of Natalia. Do as you like, but I have no intention 
of quarrelling with him." 

"My Lord God!" said Tatiana Afanassievna ; "what 
will become of the poor child ! At least let me go and 
prepare her for such a visit." 

Gavril Afanassievitch consented, and then returned, to 
the parlour. 

" Thank God ! " said he to Ibrahim : " the danger is 
over. Natalia is much better. Were it not that I do not 
like to leave my dear guest Ivan Evgrafovitch here alone, I 
would take you upstairs to have a glimpse of your bride." 

Korsakoff congratulated Gavril Afanassievitch, asked 
him not to be uneasy on his account, assured him that he 
was compelled to go at once, and rushed out into the hall, 
without allowing his host to accompany him. 

Meanwhile Tatiana Afanassievna hastened to prepare the 
invalid for the appearance of the terrible guest. Entering 
the room, she sat down breathless by the side of the bed, 
and took Natasha by the hand ; but before she was able to 
utter a word, the door opened. 

Natasha asked : " Who has come in ? " 

The old lady turned faint. Gavril Afanassievitch drew 
back the curtain, looked coldly at the sick girl, and asked 

' ». PETER THE great's NEGRO. 463 

^^e was. The invalid wanted to smile at him, but 

15 i^ot. e Her father's stern look struck her, and un- 

in^s took possession of her. At that moment it seemed 

leic^that someone was standing at the head of her bed. 

'i ff ised her head with an effort and suddenly recognized 

C? r's negro. Then she remembered everything, and 

he aorror of the future presented itself before her. But 

lUsted nature received no perceptible shock. Natasha 

lier head dov n again upon the pillow and closed her 

^ . . . her hc;art beat painfully within her. Tatiana 

aas55Mp3, made a sign to her brother that the invalid 

t|^d^(P|Q to sleep, and all quitted the room very quietly, 

jpt tinfcnaid, who resumed her seat at the spinning- 


unhappy beauty opened her eyes, and no longer 
anyi)ody by her bedside, called the maid and sent 
for the nurse. But at that moment a round, old 
^; like a ball, rolled up to her bed. Lastotchka (for so 
jji^e was called) with all the speed of her short legs 
ffollowed Gavril Afanassievitch and Ibrahim up the 
}, and concealed herself behind the door, in accordance 
V the promptings of that curiosity which is inborn in the 
sex. Natasha, seeing her, sent the maid away, and the 
se^sat down upon a stool by the bedside. 
Fever had so small a body contained within itself so 
:h energy of soul. She intermeddled in everything, 
w everything, and busied herself about everything. By 
ning and insinuating ways she had succeeded in gaining 
love of her masters, and the hatred of all the household, 
eh she controlled in the most arbitrary manner. Gavril 
.nassievkch listened to her reports, complaints, and 
y requi|its. Tatiana Afanassievna constantly asked her 
lion, a^ followed her advice, and Natasha had the 
ij,f> t unbSPided affection for her, and confided to her all 


the thoughts, all the emotions of her sixteen-; 
heart. • 

**Do you know, Lastotchka," said she, "my 
going to marry me to the negro." i 

The nurse sighed deeply, and her wrinkled face! 
still more wrinkled. ij* 

** Is there no hope ? " contin!i|a Natasha : " will rr 
not take pity upon me ? " ^ 

The nurse shook her cap. \. 

" Will not my grandfather or my a^n - -';^j- ^- — - 

" No, miss ; during your illness the 
bewitching everybody. The master is out ot 
him, the Prince raves about him alone, ^v: 
Afanassievna says it a pity that he is a negro, a. 
bridegroom we could not wish for." 

" My God, my God ! " moaned poor Natasha, f 

" Do not grieve, my pretty one," said the nurse, kissing',!!^ 
feeble hand. " If you are to marry the negro, you will 4i J^ 
your own way in everything. Nowadays it is not as ^' 

in -the olden times : husbands no longer keep tlieii 
under lock and key ; they say the negro is rich ; your 
will be like a full cup — you will lead a merry life." 

" Poor Valerian ! " said Natasha, but so softly 
the nurse could only guess what she said, as si 
not hear the words. 

"That is just it, miss," said she, mysteriously lo 
her voice; "if you thought less of the archer's o 
you would not rave about him in your illness, anc 
father would not be angry." 

" What ! " said the alarmed Natasha : " I l^ave 
about Valerian ? And my father heard it ? An 
is angry ? " 

" That is just the misfortune," replied the nu^e 
if you were to ask him not to marry you td^j^ 







'd think that Valerian was the cause. There is 
,0 be done ; submit to the will of your parents, for 

to be, will be." 

<ha did not reply. The thought that the secret 

.^art was known to her father, produced a powerful 

on her imagination. One hope alone remained 

to die before the completion of the odious marriage. 

ought consoled her. Weak and sad at heart she 

: herself to her fate. 





N the house of Gavril Afanassievitch, to the right 
vestibule, was a narrow room with one window, 
stood a simple bed covered with a woollen counter- 
front of the bed was a small deal table, on wj|ja « 
candle was burning, and some sheets of musg l||f 
On the wall hung an old blue uniform anditsco^fe " 
a three-cornered hat ; above it, fastened by three nai 
a rude picture representing Charles XII. on ^ors 
The notes of a flute resounded through this hui^le J 
tion. The captive dancing-master, its lonely occur" ^ 
night-cap and nankeen dressing-gown, was relievinL 
ness of a winter's evening, by playing some old 
marches. After devoting two whole hour^ to this K:^ 
the Swede took his flute to pieces, placed it in 
and began to undress. . . , , . 


Printed by MORRISON & GiBB Limited, Edinbtin-'i 







This book is due on the last date stamped below, or 

on the date to which renewed. 

Renewed books are subject to immediate recall. 

JUN 1 5 1937 2 3 



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li''67-- ' >PM 

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NOV 13 '67 -4 FM 

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LD 2lA-60m-2,'67 

General Library 

University of California